Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It ain't browsing unless there are shelves...

Back when I was a kid in Chicago, I would go into the flagship Kroch's and Brentano's on Wabash and head directly to the basement, where the soft-covers lived (I couldn't afford hardcovers).

New releases were on one wall to your left; straight ahead and then around to your right were fantasy and science fiction. Farther on was mystery and suspense. And in the middle was nonfiction.

So, naturally, what I would do was start at the beginning, go from bookcase to bookcase and shelf to shelf, and just look at what was there. Admiring (or not) the books that were face out, and pulling the books that were spine out to look at the jacket copy, I would stay until I had covered all the sections I was presently interested in. Which pretty much meant that I would cover the entire basement (except, of course, romance).

Now, of course, I had favorite authors and would always check if there was something new by them. But it also allowed me to "discover" new authors I never would've "met."

I remember doing the same at the old Illini Union bookstore in Champaign, at the original Border's in Ann Arbor, and do so presently at Book People here in Austin.

All that is to say that that is why I just don't like electronic bookstores (although I have been known to shop at such places).

Sure, they have "browse" functions, which give you a numbered list of categorized selections, but it really isn't the same (Yes, the "search" function can be invaluable, but that is, by definition, a much more focused kind of thing).

On-line book browsing feels more like a chore than a pleasure.

There's just no there there.

2 comments:

Shelli Cornelison said...

I agree, Greg. Browsing requires walking along and physically touching the books. When I say,"I'm just browsing" to any store clerk, I hope they know that means I'm going to put my hands on the merchandise. You just can't do that in cyberspace.

susiej said...

I agree. Clicking and waiting for a page to pull up (especially if your computer is as slow as mine) is not the same as having a book catch your eye from the shelf, almost as if it whispered to you and then holding it in my hand, even flipping to the back page if I feel like it.

Nope, e-stores can never replace the wonder of being physically surrounded with stacks of books.

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