The smell of old pages, the mumble of people reading, the books waiting to be picked up and taken home. I used to love these things about bookshops, and so many of my teenager years would be spent pursuing the aisles of my local Waterstones, Blackwells, Oxfam books and any other bookshop I could find. Pretty much all my pocket money was spent on books at one point of my life.
I went into a Waterstones the other day. And there was something so jarringly claustrophobic about it that I had to leave.
I think my biggest struggle about bookshops now is the sheer amount of choice. As someone that has become very complacent about ordering books online, I find myself only ever searching for specific books. The concept of browsing and picking up one that sounds interesting is alien to me. Where once I used to spend an hour picking out books that captured my imagination from the blurb, I now only buy ones with a Bookstagram approval and Goodreads rating of above 3.8.
Is this the death of the bookshop? No, I think there are still so many people that adore the experience of feeling the symbolic weight of all those books watching them. But I think the way that we are consuming our books is changing.
Those display tables in the centre of a room seem to capture our attention like moths to a flame. I always feel bad for the books on the shelves. They are probably only ever touched by an experienced eye. We are herded often to these best seller titles that we’ve read about in someone’s review, and the cycle continues and continues.
I hope that one day I will be able to rekindle my love for those bookshops. Rekindle the excitement of finding that book that sounds exactly like what you’ve been looking for. There is something artificial about the way book consumption is moving to. The veneer of individual love for a book is being stripped away in the face of a much more overtly consumerist, capitalist reality about our book reading trends.