Friday, September 12, 2008

Now I Understand

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.


Rob Nixon said...

I think I just accidentally deleted your comment on Waiting for the next swell!

Of course we're spoiled. We were commenting on that today with our friend Wade Dunkin. There are so many days during the winter that we get Boca Chica at prime conditions and it is just 5 or 6 of us out hooting and hollering.

The comments I made were part of a perpetual rib that we share with our northern brothers!

Anonymous said...

You can always wear a tweed blazer and smoke a pipe while you network online. No need to do away with the whole tradition.


Patricia A.

Sam said...

I'm not sure if the thing is still going, but Steve Hathcock used to have OK coffee and serve right fine buffalo-beef chili and we'd sit around the table and talk literature, history, and things like gold coins. I don't think Steve smokes a pipe but he was the man in the back of the store, incredible memory, and the relative shambling environ was very comfy and homey on a boring winter's day. Even the smells of coffee, chili, and old books were exciting.

I can see that here with you, Joni, sans pipe but sometimes maybe with a sweater or jacket with leather elbow patches. I don't know if that's your speed, but people are different here, not like the mainland. Tell folks to sit down and have some fun, buy a few things, and make sure they come back in a day or two if they can. It works. -sam

South Padre Live said...

Ghost stories I tell ya!
We need a good old fashion make you want your Mama ghost story telling session.


Joni said...

Thanks for all the comments.

I love hanging out at the Beachcomber's Museum with Steve and Kay. I can imagine that the problems of the world have been solved more than once there, and the history he has at his fingertips is pretty amazing. Our first year on the Island while I was stocking up on books, Griff and Steve chatted and we learned about the nude beach for starters. Lately we have focused on learning more about sea beans from Kay.

I hope they will be willing to join me at Paragraphs a few evenings for some good SPI stories, and yes, JW maybe share some good ghost or pirate stories.