If you are reading this and own a Kindle, Nook, MP3 player, IPod or other electronic entertainment device, please take my sentiments as part of the bigger picture.
Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, the front of the Business section had an article about the bookstore chain BORDERS not being able to pay it's publishers due to decreased sales and a total chain loss of close to 74 million. Buried in the article was the tidbit of information that sales of electronic reading devices for the past fiscal year made up 8 to 10 percent of total sales. I wept. Visions of houses with 4 walls made up of television screens and the book-melting flames of Fahrenheit 451 flashed into my head. The world is moving away from books made out of paper and ink and shrinking it down to the size of a computer screen. I have seen the screens of the Kindle- they are amazing. There is no blue-green glow, no reflection of light to obscure the words, the font is pleasant and soft, and there are features such as built-in dictionaries. They are like the suburbia of books. They are made to mimic the real deal, but without any of the long commutes or pesky neighbors. They are made for convenience- and all the charm and allure of an actual book is sacrificed.
This week Grant and I were in our neighborhood video store and found out they were closing their doors at the end of the month. We knew it was coming- the owners had started selling electronics to boost sales and had even discussed the ramifications of opening a back room for porn. I knew I was getting desperate when that sounded like a good idea to me- anything to keep Mike's Video open. Grant and I had sacrificed the convenience of Red Box and Netflix numerous times in order to "walk down to Mike's" and rent movies for $2.50/night. I remembered why we do that when our buddy Ryan -who is one of the managers at Mike's- was giving us a 10 minute descriptor of what exactly makes a Film Noir. You can't get that standing at a Red Box kiosk.
It is the beginning of the end for quaint, antiquated things like bookstores, video stores and record shops. People want convenience above all else and can't be bothered to turn a page, walk to a store or flip over a record. I have a sinking feeling that Grant and I will be having a conversation with Purslane when she is in High School where we will hear "You guys listened to Compact Disks and took up all that room in the house with Bookshelves??? How retro!".
We will soon lose the beauty of cover art, which gives a small taste of what is contained inside the pages of a book. We will lose liner notes, which give artists a chance to acknowledge the people in their lives. We will lose the people who in 30 seconds can guide the rest of us in choosing a movie that will broaden our worldview and entertain us. We will lose the luxury of browsing and the joy of discovery. It is the beginning of the end.