Sunday, 23 March 2014


Although it was sentimental fluff, I freely admit to loving the 1998 movie, You've Got Mail, in which the little independent bookstore, Shop Around The Corner, battled valiantly but eventually caved to competition from the big bad mega bookstore chain, Fox Books.  The plot strongly resonated with me at the time.  Our son, Christopher, had worked part time in our favourite Thornhill book nook, Edwards Books and Art.  In 1997, Edward Borins' small chain sadly suffered a similar fate, succumbing among other things, to increasing competition from Chapters. It was easy then to point fingers at the so-called big bad wolf. The introduction of big box bookstores had forever changed the face of the booking selling industry. Does anyone now even remember the highly respected Britnells or much-loved Pages?

It was thus with alarm that I read this weekend about the closing of three Toronto landmark bookstores - the World's Biggest Bookstore, Book City, and The Cookbook Store. There is no superstore boogie man at which to point this time. Even the mighty Chapters/Indigo has been forced to reposition itself to a "lifestyle store for book lovers", offering home decor products, gift items, and oh, lest we forget, books! Can it survive? Not with a simple bookstore business model, according to Heather Reisman. Only time will tell. The death knell for many bookstores is now being rung by ever increasing numbers of consumers opting for mobile readers over physical books, clicking online over perusing book-lined shelves.

All of this strikes fear into my heart.  Our little independent and award-winning bookstore, The Blue Heron, is a community treasure.  Exuding charm with its creaky floors, wooden shelves, and well informed staff, this Uxbridge hub is all about relationships offering a plethora of book readings, art shows and studio courses to its clientele. Can it buck the trend and meet the challenges of the future? I pray that the expert knowledge offered, the innovative ongoing activities and the sheer pleasure of shopping in this unique, atmosphere-filled little shop will suffice.  I cannot imagine our town without The Blue Heron at its core, but herein lies the crux of my inner turmoil.

I love to read.  Jim has long joked that Chapters, like a casino luring in a heavy gambler, regularly sent limos to escort me on book buying sprees. The veracity of that I will leave up to you!!  Stacks of books piled high beside my night table, stored cartons of books already read, and suitcases laden with books when travelling, I can only assume were what ultimately drove my darling husband to gift me in 2009 with a Kindle.

What a truly inspired gift.  I am totally hooked.  Piles and cartons of novels have vanished.  No longer do we slog around a stack of books when travelling.  In a light weight tablet smaller than many paperbacks, I carry my virtual library.  If I wish to purchase a book, I simply push "BUY".  Thirty seconds later the book has arrived on my tablet.  Long wait times for library books or bookstore orders are a delay of the past. I have morphed into an "instant gratification junkie".  Books can even be pre-ordered ahead of their release date, at which time they are delivered magically by wifi to my Kindle.  So deep is my current addiction that, when reading, I now actually prefer the compactness of my Kindle over the bulk of a book. I am a goner!

So how have I rationalized my conflicting love of our little local bookstore and my Kindle addiction? I confess, I haven't.  Guilt ridden and horribly torn, I strive to strike a balance between my personal impact on a treasured local business and my "instant gratification" demon. Where is the simple black and white of my childhood? I am destined, it appears, to remain torn between my nostalgia for the familiar and my desire to embrace change.

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