For a lot of bibliophiles the idea of owning a corner bookshop is a dream that occasionally flits across the back of ones mind, as witnessed by the popularity of the movie I've Got Mail. My theory is that everyone who loves books could imagine themselves in the role of Meg Ryan.
But, as I began preparing for this adventure, I heard a familiar refrain from many booksellers, "I don't have time to read, anymore." I thought, can that really be true. When one is surrounded by books, galleys, reviews and everything new in the literary world how could one not have time to take advantage of all these treasures.
The truth is, I have fallen victim to the same problem. Where I used to read a couple of books a week while probably working my way through a serious more difficult read at the same time, now I have a stack of books I would like to at least skim and a list of books that sound like good candidates for curling up with, but I never seem to be able to get to any of them.
Instead of reading books, I have been reduced to reading about books. Interesting, yes, but just not the same. And then there is the ubiquitous computer and internet.
To be able to live this daydream, I needed to figure out a way to sell enough books and sidelines to support myself. Yet there are times when I reviewed the mission statement, vision and plans for Paragraphs and felt they read more like something prepared for a non-profit or civic organization. But this is the nature of being a neighborhood bookshop as opposed to a B&N or Half-Price Books.
The part that I hadn't considered, being a relative recluse, is that having a community business means coming out of ones cocoon and socializing, listening, talking, and just plain interacting with others. And in today's world that means spending an awful lot of time behind a computer screen. Answering emails, commenting on blogs and participating in online discussions has replaced huge chunks of my solitary reading time
The web has created an entirely new model for marketing. The advent of social media almost requires one, if she wants to be recognized, respected, and ultimately have another spend money in her physical shop or online store, to establish an on-line identity. As I review the stories of successful booksellers, many have a full-time internet guru specifically in charge of social networking.
Gone are the days of a single website, even with an attached e-commerce capability. Now one needs to consider Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and blogging platforms, not to mention Del-ici-ous, Stumble, Technorati and Digg.
And what has just occurred to me is that if it takes the bookseller this much time to interact with others via this cornucopia of networks, when do the people I am communicating with, have the time to read?
So unless it is a hobby, I think the days of the curmudgeonly gentleman sitting in the back of a dusty book-filled shop wearing a tweed blazer and smoking his pipe while contemplating the words of a literary giant, have passed into history.