Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tourism by the book

As someone who loves to play tourist and loves books, this was a Blogger "Blog of Note" pick that really caught my attention.

Larry Portzline, a writer and college instructor, describes himself as the organizer of the "grassroots bookstore tourism movement." He's planning a 10-week tour to visit 200 independent bookstores across the United States. Now this is my kind of tourism. I love visiting well-known independent bookstores, like City Lights in San Francisco.

I still remember the first book I owned: "I Wish That I Had Duck Feet." And one of the biggest regrets of my life is having to sell or give away so many of my books when I made a major move 10 years ago. (It doesn't matter that so many of them sat unread in boxes in my closet for years). When I unloaded a dozen boxes at the used bookstore near me, and the owner offered to give me less than a hundred dollars, I couldn't believe they were worth so little. (Although he did praise my eclectic literary tastes!)

How I wish I still had my well-thumbed and annotated copies of The Rolling Stone Record Guide, Volumes 1 and 2. (There's a used one for sale at Amazon for $29.95). But I shed no tears for the three-volume set of Marcel Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past." I got it as a premium for joining the Quality Paperback Book Club, and promptly forgot about it. I ended up giving it away to a friend, and I think he ended up using it as a doorstop. It did make a very nice doorstop.

But I have to admit that despite my love for books and the people who sell them, most of my money these days is spent at my local Borders or Barnes and Noble. I admit I'm torn. Yeah, I still occasionally visit the local indies. I always feel guilty about leaving without buying something, so occasionally I'll make a purchase. I'd hate to think of a world without places like City Lights, a real literary landmark. But it's hard to beat the price and the selection at the superstores.

The Bookstore Tourism blog is a good resource for book news. And the tour sounds intriguing. If it brings some attention to America's independent bookstores, that's a great thing. After all, they're the kinds of small businesses that anchor neighborhoods and keep them lively and unique. I noticed that the tour is schedule to start on April 1, 2008. Hmmm, I hope this is serious!

Update: It is serious! Thanks to Larry Portzline for posting a comment.


Larry Portzline said...

It's serious! Although I like the idea of leaving on April Fool's Day. There's something very appropriate about that. :-)

Man of Plastic said...

Everything indie is on life-support -- bookstores, record shops, coffee shops, mom and pop groceries... The real sad thing is pretty soon we probably will hardly notice, or remember.

Esther said...

Hi Larry, thanks for responding! I was pretty sure you were serious, but I have to admit when I saw you were leaving on April 1, it did throw me a bit. Good luck with the tour. It's a great idea and a great cause!

And MoP, I definitely agree with you. Independent stores in every area are disappearing. I can remember browsing regularly through some great bookstores and record stores that have gone by the wayside.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

I prefer shopping at indie stores...if I can find them.

Esther said...

Steve, speaking of great independent bookstores, one of my favorites is Kramerbooks & Afterwords in your old stomping grounds of Washington, D.C. The last few times I've been to Washington, I've stayed in Dupont Circle, and I love browsing in Kramerbooks.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I used to love spending time at Kramerbooks & Afterwords, including for a cup of indie coffee!