I went to a Books-A-Million today. It is on a corner of where a brilliant Borders store used to be, in happier times. I don’t like Books-A-Million. There’s no substance. Just games, graphic novels, YA books, Christian Inspiration- knickknacks and such. More of a literature curiosity store than an actual book store.
There are prototypes of such stores, under different names, that I’ve seen in other places. Like the mall. A games, books, and fun! type of store. That’s what Books-A-Million is. I decided to go there with an idea to buy a graphic novel, since I know they are well stocked with numerous titles, rivaling a comic book store. However, they had changed the layout of the store, and where the comic books used to be was a shelf of Sci-Fi and Fantasy.
My eyes honed in on a Phillip K. Dick title. It was a short story collection. The store had none of his novels, like Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I have always wanted to read ( I’m a Blade Runner fan). The titles on the shelves were collections of his earlier works (maybe not his best) and they looked like snippets of easy reading, something they could sell to readers who were too superficial to get into Dick’s serious writing.
The real goods was the board game I ended up buying. It had a fairly large price tag compared to a book. I didn’t leave empty handed.
This is the reality of book shopping in the American suburbs. In the big cities stores still survive. But out in the suburbs, the only way to buy a decent book is to order one through Amazon.
However, I don’t really care to order a book on Amazon unless it is an eBook. If all my titles were available electronically I would never order a printed book. But then, I don’t really enjoy reading eBooks. They make my eyes hurt, they run out of batteries, and you can’t read them under a lamp because of the glare. They suck.
My only solace is a small, independent used bookstore that may not be there for very long. If the resale market dries up, and it absolutely has to- there soon won’t be any books left to resell- I’m not sure where I will buy books, or if I will even read at all.
I misplaced a copy of the The Aeneid recently. I was a quarter of the way through it, set it down, and never saw it again. It is a beautiful, decorative hardcover edition, the Robert Fagles translation. I could purchase another copy. Search for it on Amazon, pay extra to have it shipped and pay way more than than the eBook version. Wait a week and a half for it to arrive. Fun.
I could pick up a copy at my used bookstore, one that probably has lines and highlight marks in it. And get the wrong translation.
I’m sure Books-A-Million sells it, yet I am skeptical of what kind of edition they would sell. More window-dressing, probably. I hope I find that copy in my house somewhere. Before it’s too late.
Some time in the future, perhaps not very far from now, that copy will most likely be irreplaceable. Not just the edition itself, or the translation. But any printed copy of Virgil at all. The poet may cease to be, at least in print.
He may survive for a while online, yet, I can’t imagine myself reading Virgil on my phone. The white space, the line spacing, character spacing. The font, even the texture and color of the paper. They are just as much a part of the experience as the words. An eBook cannot duplicate this.
Perhaps that’s why my affinity for print is so strong. I fear literature will not survive without it. There are alternatives out there. Literature as a genus will not die. But the old forms that we know may be replaced a new kind of literature, which I touched on in my last blog.
I hope, on this site, to present a new, online form of literature, in an effort to shake off the doom that I feel, constantly, about literature and everything else. But I’ll try not to be too pessimistic. I view myself as a realist, and always have, although, they sometimes tend to be the same thing. I do not apologize.