April 29th, 2011 / 5:06 pm

The Cult of the Bookstore

Against, perhaps, better judgment, I’m going to go ahead and say some words on the fly here. They will be perhaps less coherent even than most of my posts, but whatever. It’s friday and almost the end of the work day so I doubt many people will read this. This is really scattered. I mean I guess the point of this post is that I like the internet more than bookstores.

I love books. I will honestly, undoubtedly, be one of the last people who own an eReader. I was basically the last one of my friends to own an mp3 player, so this is probably not surprisingly to anyone who knows me. I’m not against technological advantages, not at all– rather, I hate spending large amounts of money on things. Right now, I could buy 20+ books for the price of an eReader, so because I have little patience and have more interest in the books themselves than keeping up with technology (or even the convenience, or whatever), I would actually rather have 20 new books than an eReader. But, really, this isn’t a post about eReaders.

I want to talk about bookstores. I like bookstores. I like bookstores as much as I like video stores. Which is to say I like them a lot. I’ve worked in both: I worked in an independently own video store on a college campus when I was in high school and it was basically the best job & adolescent education in the entire world. I worked at a Borders while I was in college and it was the most frustrating and disappointing job in the world. Bookstores and video stores can often be as exciting to me as a library: they are places where, if they are worthwhile, I can wander around and, ideally, find something I’ve never heard of that I become instantly, desperately excited to encounter.

Video stores are basically dead. The thing is, I don’t really think it was netflix, or even streaming video that killed video stores. It definitely wasn’t people downloading movies that killed video stores. If it was anything specific that “killed” the video store it was the Red Box, the ubiquitous machine that lets you rent new releases for a buck without having to enter a video store or deal with an employee.

Typing the above paragraph actually lead to an additional 5 paragraph tangent about video stores but, but! I deleted it because I don’t want to talk about video stores either: I want to talk about bookstores.

I like books. And by like books I mean love books I mean I am obsessed with books. As objects. I buy a ridiculous amount of books. I have probably 400 books in my room that I own that I haven’t read yet. This will become a problem when I move across the country in a few months. I also currently work at a university library. Combining my propensity to kill time by wandering the stacks with my insistence upon requesting every book I want to read that costs more than $30 that the library doesn’t have from Inter-Library Loan results in me, without exaggeration, checking out between 5 & 20 books a week. Like I said, I’m obsessive.

But the point here is bookstores. I live in a small college town. We used to have the following places to buy books: a Borders, a Barnes & Noble, a used bookstore whose name I can’t remember, a used bookstore that operates out of a garage, and a bookstore that sold remaindered books. The Borders, which I used to work at, closed a couple months ago. The Barnes & Noble still stands. The used bookstore with the unknown name hasn’t been around for more than 6 years. The remaindered bookstore lasted about 6 months.

The other two, the B&N and the garage bookstore, remain.

Sometimes in big cities you can find interesting books at corporate bookstores. If that’s the case for you, cool, power to you. If you live in a smaller town, even if it is a college town, or if you live in a city that is primarily a tourist trap, corporate bookstores are going to focus on stocking the lowest common denominator crap. I mean, I don’t any of the ire raised in Chris Higgs’s posts about Chicago’s bookstores would be similarly present for a Barnes & Noble or a Borders. The out-of-a-garage bookstore is stocked with mostly mass market tripe &… I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s sort of like, perhaps, a really bad library that only took up two rooms & hasn’t gotten new books since 1992.

On the one hand, sure, it sucks that I have nowhere in town that’s a good place to buy a book, but it hasn’t taken me too long to get over it.

As I’ve said, often, before, I prefer to buy used books. There are 3 main reasons for this:
1) I don’t make that much money
2) I like to buy as many books as possible, and if the books I’m buying cost less money then I can buy more
3) Half the shit I want/need to own is out of print anyway, so buying used is my only option

I apologize to publishers. I mean, I guess. I bought a lot of new books at AWP, I promise. Sometimes I even order shit directly from publishers. But, frankly, if there is a book I want and I can get a used copy for less than it costs to get a new copy (including shipping), then I’m going to buy the used copy. Unless I become so rich that spending money literally doesn’t matter, I am unlikely to change my habits.

Sometimes, if I am in a bookstore and I find something that I’ve been wanting, I will buy it. Mostly just for the novelty and the fact that that’s the way capitalism works: put something I’ve been wanting in front of me and I’ll want it even more.

I appreciate the idea of independent bookstores, I really do. I appreciate them for the idea of curation: if you own a bookstore and there is no corporate entity dictating what you must stock and what you must have highly visible, you can do some awesome shit. This rarely happens, but the idea is cool, right? The idea of a bookstore as a communal space is… interesting to me. Out of all the readings I’ve been to in cities, only one of them was at a bookstore, and frankly, it was annoying. It was too crowded & the beer that was available (there was a cafe in the bookstore) was ridiculously expensive.

The thing is, the internet does everything a bookstore can, and even does, do, better. I am a major proponent of the idea of encountering something by chance, hunting for the perfect item, researching your way into a hole that no one has dug themselves into before. If I encounter something in a bookstore and I’m unfamiliar with it, but it looks interested, and it costs more than, say, five dollars, I am likely to do the following instead of immediately purchasing the book:
1) Go home (I suppose if I had a smartphone I could skip this step)
2) Get on the internet
3) See if I can get the book cheaper from somewhere on the internet
4) Look on amazon for a plot description & any user reviews
5) Look on goodreads to see what people have said

Based on the information gleaned from the above, I make a decision regarding the book. If something is less than $5 and looks awesome then I’ll probably buy it with reckless abandon. I’ve definitely encounter lots of cool shit this way, especially at one of the best used bookstores I’ve encountered ever, which is located in the town I grew up in (a town being the original home of Dalkey Archive leads to some rad shit ending up in the local used bookstore).

I’m just kind of thinking out loud here. For a community that often insists it’s better to purchase books directly from the publisher to the publisher & author make maximum profits themselves, is the only reason an independent bookstore is the next best option due to the ethical consideration? Jac Jemc, in the comments section of Chris’s post, noted that Quimby’s was an ideal place for her teenage self to discover interesting books in a world of mediocrity. That’s certainly a valid thing to note, and the independent video store I worked at exposed me to a million different movies I had never heard of when normal video stores weren’t doing shit, but it seems to me like now the internet does this kind of thing even better. Especially to a younger generation: is it more likely a teenager will hear about an awesome small-press book on the internet or by browsing an independent bookstore? If you’re not already interested in the idea of books beyond the trite crap that’s available at corporate bookstores, then you probably aren’t interested in an independent bookstore. Like I said, I don’t have a point here, just sort of thinking out loud.

Actually maybe I do have a point: the internet is fucking awesome, and while I do support the idea of a locally sustainable ‘market’ taking a precedence above all other potential market-systems, when it comes to books you’re already buying from a national, if not global “market” of writers, right? Bookstores don’t create books, writers create books. If your favorite local bookstore closes, your favorite writer that lives on the other side of the world won’t stop writing, right? It will be sad. I have been sad when video stores have closed, but people have not stopped making movies. I have not stopped watching movies. I manage to read plenty of books & participate in a literary “scene” without there being anything even resembling a decent bookstore in the town I live in. This is the damn future, let’s do this.

Also libraries rule. Check out more books from libraries.


  1. stephen

      I agree that the internet is fucking awesome.

  2. Jeremy Bauer

      I agree with lots of everything here. I’ve never lived in a big city or anything, and while I’ve traveled a little, I’ve only heard about good independent bookstores. In my home town, there isn’t even a place to buy cd’s except for Wal-Mart and, like, two pawn shops. I learned to shop for everything online when I was in high school because it’s where I can find nearly everything I want. Also, with Amazon, you can buy used books and a lot of times you can get them from independent bookstores/used bookstores that way. I’ve even had a few instances now where my book came with a short letter in it from the store owners saying how they hope I enjoy the books and thanks for buyin’. I’m not going to say more independent bookstores should become warehouses for online business, but embracing the internet has generally been proven to be more fruitful than detrimental.

      With global advances, such as the internet, people have to step up and think of creative new ways to do business to stay alive. I’ve never had the finances to forego a much cheaper purchasing option out of pity or some spirit for the underdog (this is in general, of course, and excludes the first record store I’d ever experienced—Village Green Records in Muncie, IN). It is hard to care too much about independent bookstores having never experienced them, but I’m not going to let unfortunate geography keep me from loved discoveries. I probably wouldn’t have even heard of half the books I own if I chose to only buy from bookstores. I’m glad I can follow my passions with just a computer and a credit card. Dissemination of information, yo. This might have wiggled a bit with point, but I felt the fire.

  3. pizza

      More books and films will be written and made this year than in any other year in the history of man. Art production will grow exponentially until we’re buried under the rubble of mediocre novels, poetry, paintings, DVDs, video games, music, etc. It — including the billions of collective tabs opened in our web browsers — will suffocate us all.

  4. Roxane

      I’m very down with the Internet and even Amazon. The Internet is, indeed, awesome and you make lots of great points about the benefits of the Internet but I think it’s…. somewhat bizarre to suggest the Internet can do everything a bookstore can do or that anything mediated through a virtual reality is superior to a physical reality. To me, that’s like saying a dirty chat via GCHAT is as good as real sex. I also don’t think it’s about one versus the other or that we should even be trying to frame this conversation as one thing is better than the other. There are great beenfits to brick & mortar bookstores and there are great benefits to book shopping online where you have immediate and far reaching access to unique book artifacts.

  5. Michael Filippone

      I like this post. It is almost exactly how i think/feel about book stores.

      And I go through that same exact sequence when I see something interesting at a book store. Almost always I end up finding a more appealing reason to buy the book online rather than from the store. Am I to blame for the decline of Borders? Maybe. But who cares; the book got bought. The book got read. And, if the book was good, the book got talked about.

      This isn’t the decline of books, just the decline of stores. Fuck stores. I’m here for the books.

  6. Jeremy Bauer

      As I explained, I’ve never lived in an area with an independent bookstore (save a few used bookstores with too many cats in the window and on the floors, and most of its books romance or fantasy or Star Trek). Could you maybe elaborate on the brick & mortar benefits?

  7. Dan Moore

      There’s a chain of video stores from my hometown, Family Video, that’s managed to withstand Netflix and Redbox nearly as well as it did Blockbuster 20 years ago. I don’t know how they manage it, but their prices were always vastly lower than Blockbuster, and they’ve continued to expand in the last few years as everybody else goes bankrupt.

      It’s that kind of thing I’d like to see in bookstores. I don’t like that there’s a huge gap between Barnes and Noble, multi-leveled, coffee-shopped, nook-filled, and indie bookstores, which are always so hobbyist or DIY or some word I’m not using right. I’m not sure there isn’t room for a concept that’s as commercial as Barnes and Noble but more differentiated than Borders.

  8. Roxane

      I don’t live near an independent bookstore either but, fortunately, I do get to travel. I enjoy browsing. I do. Not everyone does but I enjoy seeing what’s on the shelves, and sitting in the store to read a book or part of a book, whether the books are mainstream at a Barnes & Noble, or the more eclectic offerings of an independent store. I love the selection of periodicals. I have this weird thing for Paris Match. I don’t feel the need to subscribe but when I find it in a bookstore, I’m thrilled and I buy it. Attending readings and getting to interact with writers is another nice feature of bookstores and this is pretty exciting for me mostly because I do live in an isolated area and have for the past six years though I do now live a bit closer to civilization than I did in Upper Michigan. There’s a personal level of service I appreciate. Yes you can rely on an online bookstore’s algorithm for recommendations and that’s nice but I also enjoy talking to booksellers about what they are into. Some people don’t care for bookstores or can take or leave them. These are just things I enjoy about them.

  9. Roxane

      We have a Family Video in my town. I think they succeed because of deep discounts and specials like all movies half off for a month and so on. Also, late fees.

  10. Roxane

      We have a Family Video in my town. I think they succeed because of deep discounts and specials like all movies half off for a month and so on. Also, late fees.

  11. Jeremy Bauer

      I didn’t even think about periodicals. Though I can’t remember the last time I bought one, I always love to browse the periodicals. I’ve never attended a reading in a bookstore, but if they offer anything close to Vouched Books, then I look forward to that experience.

      Thanks for elaborating. I’ve heard/read a lot of people talk about independent bookstores, but they rarely seem to go into detail or cite their strengths.

  12. ZacharyGerman

      A smile crept across my happy mustached face…

  13. alan

      I only go to independent bookstores. They have the best selection and the worst security.

  14. kb

      Libraries do rule. You feel like a miser in there though. Sorta. This is a thing.

  15. Frank Tas, the Raptor

      I have dreamed of something where a bunch of people agreed to pay for a space and the only purpose of it was to hang out. You could bring your books you purchased online, maybe exchange them with other people, you could do the same with comics or records or zines or any art, but the way the place would exist would be by having a shit ton of people contribute to maintenance, either by paying a portion of the lease or volunteering to clean the place up during closing hours. I don’t know if this’d work. I don’t know if it’s allowed. But so long as people have a place to hang out and meet new people with some shared interests, I don’t think we should really care about the materialistic aspect. That’s what Jesus’d want, right.

  16. reynard

      “Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein

  17. reynard

      “…a moral compass so smashed [it] bruise[s] everything [it] touch.” — Ben Marcus

  18. Brandon Will

      Exactly how I feel, Roxane. Exactly.

  19. mimi

      is it one of those hipster ‘ironic’ mustaches ?

  20. mimi

      did you really grow up in normal, mike kitchell, seriously ?

      i been diggin’ your posts

  21. M. Kitchell

      yup. i lived in bloomington, but spent most of my time in normal (and went to highschool & worked in normal).

  22. kb

      As far as B&N goes, I worked there for almost three years and I did what I could do to have people like Kyle Minor and Peter Markus displayed in an immediately visible location. Whatever, I don’t work there now. We have Bonnie Jo Campbell and Jaimy Gordon right here, and apparently nothing could be done with that, so, yeah. I honestly tried to get something going at the store… but the bottom line was the bottom line, anything I said was tossed off. They’re right down the street, mind you. And three MFA students working there. Nothing. Just… saying. Bonnie Jo did a signing, but a READING… haha, no. Okay. BS over.

  23. Jennifer Spiegel

      Great library plug. Thanks for the post on the love o’ books.

  24. reynard

      full disclosure: pizza and i go way back

  25. Jimmy Chen

      you drop gertrude stein so much she should sue you for that face of hers

  26. reynard

      she’s the man

  27. Samuel Sargent

      That sounds a lot like any of half-a-dozen various Fraternal Orders of except with a much lower median age and possibly with less alcohol and bingo. Those don’t generally seem to require a full shit ton of people, though, maybe just a metric piss ton. I suppose the cost would all depend on the location. Where I live, you can rent a 2 story, 5 bedroom house for $350. Where I’ll be living in two weeks, that same $350 might convince someone to let you use their bathroom once, as long as you supply your own toilet paper. (That might be the key to getting more people to read, set up a reading room where all of the chairs are toilets.)

  28. M. Kitchell

      in this town, there basically used to be a place where this happened but it was built more around a music scene than anything else. ~18 people split the rent for a building where people can practice, hang out if they want, hold shows, etc. i agree that we should be focusing more on how this shit is exists than who’s making money from it 4 sure.

  29. M. Kitchell

      whatttttt. since i think all art should be free and available to everyone, libraries are basically at equal standing with the internet to me.

  30. M. Kitchell

      My little brother still works at a Family Video. It does seem to be staying alive, but I think the fact that it’s cheaper than Blockbuster is part of the reason. Blockbuster was up to, what, like $5 for two nights for a new release before most of them went under, right?

      When I was initially trying to see all the Friday the 13th movies, shortly before they were all reissued in a DVD boxset, for some reason the only place I could get the 4th one was at a damn Blockbuster (my town had the following: Indy rental place I worked at, 2x Blockbusters, and 3x Family Videos, and 2x public libraries, and 2x university libraries [that I had to have my friends who were in college rent movies for me from] and I regularly frequented ALL OF THEM as they had different stock), and I was shock and appalled to discover that I had to spend something like $4 for a fucking 2 night rental on a VHS tape?! And this was probably in fucking 2002!

  31. Trey

      I’m glad you put ironic in quotes. I understand that “hipsters” do lots of things ironically or whatever, but I’ve never understood why everyone always says that hipster mustaches are ironic. Maybe some of them are, I guess. All I know is that a lot of the “hipsters” that sport mustaches actually look pretty good with mustaches.

  32. deadgod

      the internet is awesome enough to deserve or ‘to deserve’ the cult it, too, has

      writers create books

      what creates writers

      that other thread included the bears-repeating perspective that seeing a book while browsing in a bookstore, then scooping it up off the internet, is parasitical

      one can browse on amazon et al. by using the tool of ‘people who bought X also bought:’ and by searching broadly and/or scrolling patiently

      and there are scads of communities on the internet in which curatorial expertise is available

      but, as much as the internet adds value,

      exiting the pod bay and exchanging molecules as well as words with people is something to lose

  33. Samuel Sargent

      The library where I live sucks ass. First of all, it’s a private library. This town is too much of a crap pile to have anything nice that’s public. You have to pay $25/year to join. Now, I’ll grant you that $2.09/month is a very reasonable rate for unlimited books and I would be willing to pay $25 to join a decent library, but the local library is such a piece of crap that I’d feel somewhat justified bitching about it if it were free. The selection is crappy, but the selection looks like the Library of Alexandria when compared to the service. It was bad enough that they were going to charge me to do an Inter-Library Loan, but then they tried to argue with me and tell me it wasn’t worth the money when I decided to go ahead and pay the fee because they presumably didn’t want to have to bother with the paperwork. The cheapest I could find the book online used was $130, I’ll pay the fuckin’ $5 for shipping to read it for free.

      Until a couple of years ago, this town had never had a bookstore. Then someone from out of state retired out here and opened a used bookstore. It was mostly tripe but I managed to find a pile of stuff that I wanted to read. And they gave you a 25% discount for each book you brought back. They only stayed in business for a year and a half or so, closing a couple of months ago. They were replaced by the town’s first coffee shop, the first place in town to ever offer free WiFi (which I greatly appreciate because I live out on the dirt roads and the only broadband available to me is satellite, which I can’t afford.)

      In a couple of weeks, I’m moving to the college town where my girlfriend lives. I spent a few weeks out there a few months ago. The public library there is awesome. I was able to get a free card even though I didn’t even live in the same state, let alone the county they serviced. (Although as an out-of-area member, I was restricted to only 2 books at a time.) My girlfriend works for the college, thus can check out books for up to a year at a time. Between the University library and the Public library, I found at least two dozen books I was immediately interested in reading, including the aforementioned $130 book. (It’s the most in depth tome ever written about Turmeric. I have no idea why I want to read it but it’s sitting on my dresser at this very moment.)

      That town also has a handful of bookstores. There’s a Borders Express in the mall that surprisingly isn’t on the current executioner’s list. There’s a Hastings. At least two university bookstores. And one used bookstore that I simultaneously love and want to punch in the face. The books are relatively well-organized, albeit into categories that seemed to have some overlap to me. But the store has no inventory tracking system at all. If you call them and ask if they have a particular book in stock, they put you on hold and go look on the shelves to find out.

      I was trying to remember the last books I actually bought new and the list is a bit disappointing. I bought my girlfriend the pink leather bound Lewis Carroll collection from Barnes & Noble (it’s a B&N exclusive and it’s awesome, it not only has all of his novels & short stories & poetry, the damn thing even has his mathematical essays) and rather than pay shipping $5 shipping, I spent $7 on Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections to qualify for free shipping. (So, really, it only cost me $2, used book prices.) Prior to that, I bought Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers from Amazon because I’d enjoyed Blink and The Tipping Point when I read them via library. And a few hours ago I ordered Jac Jemc’ (Jemc’s?) new chapbook, directly from her because I got lazy (technically, broke and hoping it would last until my birthday in another month) and missed being able to order it from the publisher.

      So my point in this monstrosity of a comment (not that anyone who’s still reading is sober enough to have actually followed along this far) is that BookMooch is a pretty fuckin’ excellent alternative when there’s no great used bookstore in your area and you want to pretend to stick to communist ideals.

      Also, video games are the only multimedia format that doesn’t seem to be getting destroyed by the Internet. Why aren’t publishers looking at what video game retail outlets are doing to increase sales and follow suit? Just imagine it “Preorder M Kitchell’s new novel and get a bonus anal sex scene only available from Borders!” “Get the Wal-Mart exclusive 27 midget extravaganza scene when you preorder M Kitchell’s new novel!” Make it so.

  34. deadgod

      is this a nest of mustache jokes

      you hipsters run spirals around my drain

  35. M. Kitchell

      I’m gay, so I often sport a mustache and if anybody considers it ironic I’m allowed to scoff at their ignorance of history.

  36. M. Kitchell

      jesus what hellhole do you live in
      jesus what evil fucking overlord would charge for a damn library
      ‘private libraries’ are just… i don’t know. they don’t make sense to me :(
      oh my god my mind was blown in a bad way

      but i think you’re right about the video games thing, and i don’t know if that’s pointed out. IT’S AN INTERESTING THING TO CONSIDER. (tho i still want everything to be free all the time for everyone)

  37. M. Kitchell

      yeah, as much as i love the internet, i also love being outside. i don’t want to imply one should not dig into some sand ever so often.

  38. M. Kitchell

      I don’t think I “get” the idea of signings… the Borders I worked at had those too. Of the three years I worked there I think there was, like, one reading? There were scads of bullshit “nights of entertainment” starring busted local “musicians” (the scare quotes are necessary there, trust me) who probably drove more people out than pulled people in. but more to the point, i really don’t get wtf is the point of signing. IDGI.

  39. mimi

      can’t believe i just googled ‘ironic hipster moustache’

  40. deadgod

      whattttttever ‘free’ means to an artist’s landlord and bar-tab holder, I like it

  41. M. Kitchell

      I think embracing the internet is definitely the way to go. The bookstore in Normal that I linked to in my post does, apparently, about half of their business online, and that’s part of how they’ve stayed in business.

      I also think this nostalgia/insistence upon the allure/community of an “independent” bookstore is perhaps something relegated exclusively to The City. If we insist that the Independent Bookstore is instrumental to the development of a writing community we are inherently privileging The City, which I, being someone who has never lived in a city, think is pretty fucked/annoying.

  42. reynard

      there is only one mustache in this nest, both the mustache and the word hipster were around long before urban outfitters & american apparel my friend

  43. reynard

      urban outfitters is owned by a conservative dickhead from philly who thought it would be funny to sell hippies what they wanted

  44. reynard

      american apparel is owned by a perv from canada with socialist leanings who thought it would be cool to sell quality t-shirts and underwear without fucking brand names printed on them to people who didn’t want to wear fucking brand names on their t-shirt and undies, did things get out of hand? ‘cocaine is a hell of a drug’ — rick james

  45. deadgod


      each day, or each week anyway, one can do plenty of each

      and I’m a hypocrite, in that, although I look for affordable-to-me new books by living writers, and recycle what I can afford from borderbox at the couple of okay used-book stores near me, I use amazon to get like-new books and check out new releases from the county library

      but a bookstore operating independently or ‘independently’ of Tentacular Inc. sure seems to me to be a nearly unalloyed Good

  46. Samuel Sargent

      The town I grew up in only had the school library. The school library would probably fit in my current bedroom. The town I grew up in had 200 students in the school. If that sounds small to you, you’re probably failing to factor in the fact that that was K-12 and some teachers (art, music, gym) taught every grade K-12. Small doesn’t even begin to cover it. The school I attended K-12 (excepting 5th grade, when we briefly moved) had a total non-white population of 3 half-Japanese students who were born & raised in the town (well, a mile south of it) and were basically white with slightly squinty eyes. The school I attended had a grand total of 2 girls get pregnant the entire 13 years I was there. One of the 2 is still married to the guy who got her pregnant, 20+ years later. The school I attended had a grand total of 1 student die, as a result of a car wreck, when I was in first or second grade (he was a senior.) The town I grew up in had such a low crime record that at one point, police intercepted the first reported robbery in 10 or more years. They were alerted to the impending crime the day before it occurred and were in the house waiting for the thieves when they broke in. And this shit I’m describing didn’t occur in the 50s, I graduated at the height of the grunge era. Three year olds could safely wander the street, the house we lived in for the longest period of time (12 years) didn’t even have a lock on the front door, but if it was culture you were looking for, you were fucked.

      The town I described in my original post is about 11 miles east of the one I grew up in. I currently live 10 miles north of that town, on a gravel road. It’s slightly more integrated than the town I grew up in. The county as a whole averages 1 African-American for every 1.1 square miles. The entire Asian population of the county consists of the mother of the three half-Japanese kids from my school and the immigrants who work at the one Chinese buffet. The entire Chinese population of the county live in the same house. (So does the entire Japanese population, I suppose.) There is a pork processing plant about 20 miles north, so there is a small Hispanic population in the area. I originally typed porn processing plant and now I know what I want to be when I grow up.

      I live in Missouri, the state with the most liberal alcohol laws in the entire USA, but if your establishment serves alcohol, your dancers aren’t allowed to take off their pants. Thus the establishment of juice bars, which are alcohol and pants free. I’m about to move to Kansas, which has no such laws regarding pants. My girlfriend is an artist and enjoys sketching the strippers while they’re dancing, so we spent the night at a strip club once. There is no strip club in her actual college town. I want to open one up just so I can name it Tuition. The town where my half-sister lives has a gay club named Shaft. That really has no relevance to anything but I absolutely love the name. I’ve never been there but a friend of mine met his wife at the previous gay bar in that same town, before it burned down. Rolling back to the beginning of this paragraph, aside from the whole pants thing, Missouri really does have liberal alcohol laws. There’s no law against drinking in public (as long as you’re not walking and aren’t drunk enough to disturb the peace) and there’s no law against where alcohol can be sold (although you do have to have a license.) Walmart sells 100% Southern Comfort and just about everything else you can imagine. Our tiny local Walmart has soda down one side of the aisle and liquor down the other side. Some grocery stores and gas stations get fancy and have a nicely paneled separate room for their alcohol.

      What is my point with all of this? My point is that there’s only 24 hours left in National Poetry Month and the Big Poetry Giveaway. That means I still have 24 hours left before it’s too late to sign up for all the free poetry books being randomly given away next week. So I clearly need to continue procrastinating. Fuck.

  47. mimi

      “sell quality t-shirts and underwear . . . to people who didn’t want to wear fucking brand names on their t-shirt and undies”

      i think it was to people who didn’t want to wear underwear except ‘ironically’

  48. deadgod

      I don’t know these outlets

      mustaches and words change contexts even as contexts contextualize them

      I am guessing that “hipster” is a Bad Thing

      I would bet my life that I’ve been called worse

  49. Anonymous

      I hear you, but I can’t believe I’m sitting here on a Saturday night reading about a $4 purchase someone I don’t know made in 2002.

  50. M. Kitchell

      are you from the future

  51. Jack Pendarvis

      I used to live near a swamp and it was okay. But cities are pretty nice too!

  52. Jessehu2003

      I’m amazed at how similar our obsessions with books are. If a book is $5 or cheaper I buy it immediately (that’s how I’ve ended up with some really strange books around the house). I also am fucking fascinated by books as objects. I love to see them stacked around my house like towers and lines and almost personable entities. I make very very little money but every bit of it goes to books (other than the money for food, of course). As much as I adore music and albums and records, I always have difficulty ordering one when I know I can buy a book instead. I like to have different editions of different books. Some of them I want to be in hardback and paperback so I can read it in whichever version I choose. If a book is rare and I can find it cheap enough, I will order a couple of copies so that there won’t be one, solitary rare copy of it in my house (I would be too afraid of damaging it to even read it). When I discover an author I like, I buy everything I can find by them (that’s why I have a tower of Derrida that will take me years to read). At one point, when I was irredeemably obsessed with Sade (that phase never really ended), I bought every version I could find of his books (hardback, paperback, trade paperback, censored, uncensored) and now I have somewhat of an “altar”. The bookstores in my general vicinity (they are in the single digits) are so awful that I can’t believe that there are any worse elsewhere. I mean, they are the Jackie Collins, bottom-rung, trash bookstores. Those are the only kinds of books I can willingly (and joyfully) throw into the garbage alongside coffee grinds.
      I don’t know what I’m saying here just that I really enjoyed what you said about books and it’s nice to know that there are others with a similar strain of obsessiveness.

  53. Charles

      I think if you ever lived in a place, not The City, that had a good independent bookstore then you would feel better about them. That’s probably a no-duh comment, but it’s hard to know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it. But yeah, the internet-kicking ass all the time.

  54. reynard

      i’m sure you have

  55. reynard

      not everything is ironic mimi, i can only speak for myself but i have never ever thought ‘i am going to wear this because it is ironic’ the only person i’ve known who i thought dressed ironically most people would look at and think oh he must be from the midwest

  56. Narrative and Authenticity 11-16-09 | Motivation, the Foundation to Succed

      […] The Cult of the Bookstore | HTMLGIANT […]

  57. mimi

      pretty sure that the wearing of undies is def considered ‘ironic’ amongst the hip crowd

  58. M Duncan

      If you really think that the internet can do everything a bookstore can do you haven’t been to the right shops. And from what you’ve written it seems like your experience has been limited to a few used bookshops and Barnes & Noble/Borders. So, that doesn’t make you qualified to make such statements does it?

  59. reynard

      okay i guess i wouldn’t know

  60. Dfasd

      yeah but doesn’t it rewire your brain to not give a shit about sometihng unless 2+ other things are happening at the same time?

  61. CGuEST

      the internet has helped me test the water-tightness of my arguments by placing them before crowds who will comment angrily and dismantle any ambiguity in a way that you eventually learn to predict and incorporate into your act

  62. CGuEST

      the internet has helped me test the water-tightness of my arguments by placing them before crowds who will comment angrily and dismantle any ambiguity in a way that you eventually learn to predict and incorporate into your act

  63. CGuEST

      the internet has helped me test the water-tightness of my arguments by placing them before crowds who will comment angrily and dismantle any ambiguity in a way that you eventually learn to predict and incorporate into your act

  64. Annoying

      the opposite of hte long tail is happening. people are recoiling from their infinite choices and the new frontier (formerly occupied by the internet) will be the mainstream outlets who manage to capture the attention of the suffocating masses

  65. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      My brain can’t process the difference between $2 and $4 if I have the money on me. It’s basically… do I want this? Do I have the money right now? Like price differences on everyday kind-of commodities don’t mean anything to me until I’m out of money. I mean, I can for sure tell the difference between a $200 and a $300 plane ticket, but the difference between a $20 book and a $15 one seems more conceptual, I have trouble understanding what it actually means for my finances until I start adding up my spending trying to figure out where money went. Sometimes if I am buying more than one thing, I forget to even listen to the total and just hand them my debit card. Maybe that’s why I always run out of money.

  66. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      Somebody was explaining to me recently the significant difference between Bloomington and Normal, and I was FASCINATED.

  67. Tim Jones-Yelvington

      I realize this probably sounds like irrelevant overshare, but what I keep coming back to with this post as well as chris’s is that it seems like there is this assumption that people make rational decisions about their book buying, whereas so little of my spending is even emotionally rational (I spent $70, and risked not having enough money for transit to and from work until my next paycheck, to order a fascinator from the UK on ebay to wear with a reading costume), and I feel like I cannot possibly be the only person like this, or else so many people would not have accumulated massive credit card debt before the economic collapse. I’ll pay cover price on two or three things at Quimby’s or the Book Cellar on a payday Friday, even though I’ve already got a shit ton of stuff I need to read, just cuz of whatever, that chemical rush that comes from coming home with new things in a bag.

  68. M. Kitchell

      but there are always at least 3 things happening at the same time anywhere

  69. M. Kitchell

      If I lived in a city I feel like I’d probably be able to empathize with this, as I basically used to (when I worked at Borders I would special order shit constantly, which even with my discount was generally at a higher price than what it’d be used on amazon). But now I buy so little in person that the chemical rush, or even the urge to feel the chemical rush, has basically subsided. I am also relatively poor and actually had to start shopping as cheap as humanly possible to facilitate survival.

  70. M. Kitchell

      If I lived in a city I feel like I’d probably be able to empathize with this, as I basically used to (when I worked at Borders I would special order shit constantly, which even with my discount was generally at a higher price than what it’d be used on amazon). But now I buy so little in person that the chemical rush, or even the urge to feel the chemical rush, has basically subsided. I am also relatively poor and actually had to start shopping as cheap as humanly possible to facilitate survival.

  71. M. Kitchell

      this was my reply to tim’s comment above, i have no idea why it’s down here

  72. Mrnelson

      most people who make fun of the midwest are assholes.

  73. reynard

      most people who are sensitive about jokes about geographic regions are insecure

  74. NewYorkBookseller

      I work in the premiere independent bookstore in New York City and have felt the crush of the Internet in a very personal way. Reading all of your comments about the benefits of Amazon, while undeniably true and personal to me, as well, being a student and an artist with limited income, has really saddened me. For shame, all of you who deny that independent bookstores are run by people with real concerns and a love of learning. Do you really shop at bookstores and then immediately buy the books online? How can you sleep at night? You want books but you don’t want to support the people who write them? Writers need to make money with their writing. That’s why they write, so that they can make enough money with their book to be able to write the next one. How do you think they can continue to do this if nobody buys their books new? Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy a good used book as much as the next person. I love the way it smells and the feel of the pages. I enjoy its affordability. But I also buy new books and I work as a bookseller and I nurture the environment of the bookstore because I honor the history and the objectness of books. 

      The ground is crumbling beneath the publishing world because people like you, who require constant entertainment, constant new stimulation, the newness of everything and the feeling of more and more and more, bypass bookstores for the ease of the internet. Publishing needs bookstores. They watch bookstores to glean the behavior of people in their market. Bookstores are places where people who love books converge. They’re community meeting grounds. Amazon is not a meeting ground, it is a place where, not people, but algorithms converge to manipulate you into spending money you don’t have. You wonder why you treat your money so flippantly, why $15 and $20 feel the same to you? It’s because you shop online. Because everything is instantaneous there. Because shopping online is not about consideration, it’s about ease and accessibility. 

      What about talking to people like you, who care about you as a person, your wants and needs and ethical composition, beyond your buying habits? People who will recognize you not because you bought Hermann Hesse and will probably also buy this book and this book and this book, but because you came in last time asking for books about potty training, and we want to know how your son is doing?

      Do you love books because they explore the condition of being human, or because they’re easy to collect? Think about it.

  75. M. Kitchell

      I love books because i love reading them and i love them as objects
      I actually generally do not love books because “they explore the condition of being human” at all
      if i am buying a book that is a “new release” i will often buy it newbut i don’t really buy “new releases” ever.  most of the books i buy came out 20 years ago & the authors are dead or not getting royalties any more so arguing that my buying used books results in writers not getting money is moot mangi also always get very confused as to how people end up commenting on 8 month old posts

  76. Anonymous

      The sad thing is that Kitchell bought the book from my bookshop online after passing it by when he was browsing in the store.  But, okay, go internet, yeah rah.

  77. M. Kitchell

      what book
      what’s going on
      what does this comment have to do with darconville’s comment

  78. Guest

      Because the post is still live and comments are still open, genius.

  79. Guest

      Also: 6 months and 8 months…not the same thing.