I’ve been out and about today, attending house inspections, and as with all of these things they don’t line up neatly. I was driving between a few when I came across the Lions book mart. Anyone who’s a reader is probably familiar with these sort of things- a charity or community group run second hand bookshop, volunteer staffed, that takes donated books and sells them at low prices. They always have this wonderful book smell and bizarre shelving rules.
I wander into these things from time to time, and I’m always amazed at how the books always seem at least fifteen years old-perhaps a reflection on how they are acquired, or maybe the new ones just get snapped up quickly.
As I browsed through this one, though, it struck me- how long will these things be able to continue?
We’re moving to an eBook future, which is cool and all; I read ebooks on my tablet often and I love having them at my fingertips. What I feel though is that ebooks can’t be put on a second hand shelf.
As a consumer that’s troubling, as it makes books harder to discover. Wandering through a second hand shop you can have books jump out at you, be seduced by the form, flick through the pictures. No online book portal I’ve experienced can do that, make some obscure book on the renaissance from the eighties stand out as much as the latest bestseller. The current eBook market makes it easy to drill down by genre, and create a curated list, but it discourages discovery of books outside the milieu you’re steeped in.
And that’s a little tragic.