October 05, 2007
An article in Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun drew attention to an Entrepreneur.com report which identifies 10 Businesses Facing Extinction in 10 Years. It is an eclectic list:
Camera film manufacturing
“What on earth,” I hear you ask, “do crop-dusters have in common with telemarketers? Or pay phones with piggybanks?”1
Whatever the common thread (we refer our loyal readers to the article itself) it is the presence of used bookstores2 on the list that concerns us most. What kind of meagre future do they imagine for us all, devoid of used bookstores? Even Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was not so bleak…
There was a time when I pictured myself as the proprietor of a used bookstore; I could not imagine a more suitable career. I know better now; the hours are long, dust gradually invades the lungs, and revenues have been in steep decline (for which the Internet is reportedly to blame).
According to the bookseller quoted in the Sun, the younger generation is equally at fault: 18-to-28-year-olds apparently have better things to do than browse. Several years ago I tried to introduce the pleasures of used bookstores to two eighteen-year olds, the children of a friend. But they mislaid their birthday gift certificates before they could cash them in. What else can a concerned book-lover do (he asks rhetorically) but try singlehandedly to make up for their indifference?
An attitude which leads to: two hours of browsing this afternoon in Sorensen Books on Cook Street near Fort in Victoria, and the wonderful Bubby Rose’s Bakery and Café (croissants! free wireless!) across the street to contemplate my finds: a copy of Theresa Kishkan’s lovely novella Inishbream to send to an Irish friend; and W. M. Spackman’s An Armful of Warm Girl, with a title and a narrative voice that I could not resist.
In my opinion, two books shows an unprecedented restraint. For those of you with doubts, consider the tens of thousands that I left behind.
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1 One bright young member of our editorial collective points out that “both pay phones and piggybanks have slots where coins might be inserted” — which could also explain the threat to coin-operated arcades: a coinage cataclysm on the near horizon forseen by none but Entrepreneur.com, that renders all metallic money null and void. But surely coin-operated gay bars are few and far between?
2 The pedant in me questions this spelling, since it is not the bookstore which is used, but the books contained therein.