Bookstore Quotes and Memories

Loving bookstores and libraries is a trait I inherited from my parents (and theirs) and probably share with many readers of this blog.

Sad to say they are a dwindling breed in D.C. (although far from extinct).  Years ago we had the Trover Shops (three, including a wonderfully quirky one on Capitol Hill), Chapters, on 15th, and Borders (various places including the one where a clothing store is now).  There were lots of others too…Crown Books (a  chain, but would suffice in a pinch. Walden Books similarly.)

There was a drama bookshop in Dupont Circle, as well as Lambda Rising (LGTB bookstores becoming a thing of the past provides a bittersweet touch to progress).  Olsson’s was all over, downtown, Georgetown, and a particularly charming one in Old Town Alexandria. Two stories and lots of wood.

We still have a good set. In fact, Politics and Prose has opened another branch in the Navy Yard, which is encouraging. But I do miss that downstairs at Trover Shop, where Congressional biographies, and tomes on tax law would jostle Chekhov and Shirley Jackson. You never knew what you would find.


And to wrap up, a bit from Calvino on the actual sections of a bookstore:

– Books You Haven’t Read
– Books You Needn’t Read
– Books Made for Purposes Other Than Reading
– Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong to the Category of Books Read Before Being Written
– Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
– Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
– Books Too Expensive Now and You’ll Wait ‘Til They’re Remaindered
– Books ditto When They Come Out in Paperback
– Books You Can Borrow from Somebody
– Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
– Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
– Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
– Books Dealing with Something You’re Working on at the Moment
– Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
– Books You Could Put Aside Maybe to Read This Summer
– Books You Need to Go with Other Books on Your Shelves
– Books That Fill You with Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
– Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time to Re-read
– Books You’ve Always Pretended to Have Read and Now It’s Time to Sit Down and Really Read Them”
— Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”  — Neil Gaiman, American Gods

Indie Readers Unite!

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An independent bookseller gives Amazon’s new brick and mortar effort a taste of their own medicine.  Paul Constant of The Elliott Bay Book Company (a wonderful Seattle bookstore, up there with Tattered Cover in my list of dream stores), offered a reward to anybody who “showroomed” Amazon’s new store and he had a taker.

Details from the Seattle Review of Books...

Reasonable Words: In Praise of Bookstores

Back from a quick trip to Belgium and Holland, and heartened by seeing bookstores in cities large in small (three even in tiny Bruges’ quaint old town).

Here’s a photo of one I saw in Amsterdam.

bookstore_Amsterdam_sized DC and Boston have lost a lot of bookstores over the last 10 years: Borders and Waterstone’s are gone, but so are local favorites like Wordsworth’s in Harvard Square, or Trover Shop on Capitol Hill, which had a fascinating combo of politics and experimental fiction.

A few kind words about this endangered species:

“I had a friend once who looked at his library and discovered that even if he completely stopped filmmaking (he was a filmmaker too) and just decided to read the books he had in his library, it would take him until he was 100 years old. He was little bit panicked. But he was courageous. He went out of his house. He went to the bookstore. And he bought ten books.”
― Alain Resnais

Hugo headed off toward the door to leave, but the bookstore was warm and quiet, and the teetering piles of books fascinated him.”
― Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”
― Helene Hanff, Q’s Legacy

“A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.”
– Jerry Seinfeld

Philanthropic Biz Opportunity?

The Times reports today on tech gazillionaires’ “helping hand” towards print media. Sort of the journalism equivalent of underwriting a hospital for sick children, I guess. Except these children are not going to get any better.

From the story:

“So ironic,” Les Hinton, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, wrote in a Twitter post last week about Mr. Bezos, that The Washington Post “should be consumed by a pioneer of the industry that almost destroyed it.”

The same story has a quote so audacious from Craig’s list founder Craig Newmark, I had to read it twice:

Mr. Newmark declined to comment on why newspaper officials blamed him. He said he supported journalism initiatives — media ethics and fact-checking are two pet causes — because he valued news he could trust. He said he was not even convinced that Craigslist had hurt newspaper classified advertising.

“I’m still waiting to see any hard evidence for cause-and-effect,” Mr. Newmark said. “I’ve been paying attention for a long time.”

Maybe Craiglist advertising (and web advertising in general) didn’t kill the cash cow that was newspaper classifieds;  if so, it would certainly seem to be one of Mark Twain’s “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” I have a hard time imagining a different scenario, although Phil Weiss in New York magazine makes this provocative point,

From a business standpoint, this may be the most revolutionary aspect of the Craigslist model: It took what had long been defined as a profitable industry—classifieds—and demonstrated that it is not much of a business at all, but is rather what open-source advocates call “a commons,” a public service where people can find one another with minimal intervention from their minders. Even so, the revenues from the tiny portion of ads Craigslist charges for are so considerable that Microsoft and Google and eBay have all come up with competitors or have announced plans to do so.

Sort of interesting considering the inflection point as a discovery that something really isn’t a business “after all,” or at least “any more.” What else is on that conveyor belt?

Today’s Times also has a piece on bookstores turning to donations to survive.

Crowdfunding is sweeping through the bookstore business, the latest tactic for survival in a market that is dominated by Amazon, with its rock-bottom prices, and Barnes & Noble, with its dizzying in-store selection. It’s hardly a sustainable business model; but it buys some time, and gives customers a feeling of helping a favorite cause and even preserving a civic treasure.

So you can’t buy WaPo, maybe you can underwrite a shelf at Politics and Prose?

Surely some consultant (perhaps the guy who got canned from NPR?) could work up a service organizing this market, putting millionaires or small fry in touch with their favorite (needy) purveyors of print. Getting your very own printing press sure beats a tote bag, right?

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Printing press for the Boston Globe. Definitely space for an elegant “name plate”–“The operation of this press underwritten by Dandelion and Albrecht Goldenrod of Newton, MA.” Or maybe just skip that step, turn it off, and make it a museum!