on bookshops

Eligiendo lecturas en la librería (ilustración de Arthur Getz):
Artist: Arthur Getz
Last fortnight, I went op-shopping with my sister and some friends. Our last stop (after morning tea) was to the only dedicated bookshop in town: a mixture of new and pre-loved and old cultural books and Penguin classics. Inside, it smells of dusty ink and paper. As much as I like visiting there, I often don't buy simply because I find it hard to find books that pique my interest and I'm kind of poor, but this time there were two poetry books (Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost) and Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke (I've been meaning to read Inkheart for forever, which is a good enough reason for getting that one). So I bought those, and my friend bought a book, and, as we were leaving, I noticed a for sale sign in the window. If I could, I'd buy that bookshop on the side of the arcade across from the café. I wonder, a little sadly, what will happen to it.

Yesterday, I learned two of the bigger bookshops in our nearest city had closed. Bookshops I had insisted on visiting whenever we were there for appointments or clothes shopping. Now they're gone, and economically I understand why. I understand not everyone is going to spend money on books when there are clothes and groceries to be got as well. I understand that business is slow and people still have to make a profit. I understand that paying five dollars for shipping at an online bookshop isn't the end of the world. But those bookshops smelt of new ink and shiny covers and excitement.

Today, after watermelon and lemon-lime gelato and a walk along the pier, my sister and I visited an independent bookshop at the end of what used to be an open-air mall. It's called Mary Who? Books and inside it smells of more than ink and paper. There's chocolate and art and notebooks and colouring books and soft music playing in the background. There's beautiful editions of classics and a decent young adult section. It's the kind of place I couldn't walk out of without buying something, which actually doesn't happen often. Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell came home with me today; luckily, it looks and sounds as magical as the bookshop. I cannot wait for an excuse to go back.

Yes, I frequently buy from The Book Depository and Amazon (for ebooks) because it's convenient and can be cheaper. No shame in that at all. But going into a bookshop, breathing it all in, holds a bit of magic for me. There's something unique about that experience, I think, and I hope in a hundred or so years that experience still exists.

do you prefer online bookshops or physical ones? when did you last visit a bookshop and what did you buy there?


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