I have the good fortune of living quite close to an incredible indie bookstore in Harvard Square. It's kind of bad because I keep dropping by to buy novels. It's a bit of a retail therapy thing, honestly; I get stressed out (this is more and more frequent) and so I buy books. Books, as always, to me, are an escape, and I need that escape really bad sometimes. It's funny, because I have a Kindle here, but I still buy paper copies of lots of books, and it's making me hope that maybe the book industry is less doomed than I originally thought. Then again, we're all book junkies here, so it might be different for the average reader.
I recently bought two books that I'm excited to read:
Obviously, what caught my attention was the title. I'm pretty into the cover design too, and I'm all about the shallow stuff when it comes to cover design; logically, I know it's marketing, but I can't help but like a book with a minimalist cover. I read a couple of pages and liked the voice a lot (importance of voice, reaffirmed), and plus, it just seemed like a cool, quirky contemporary that I'd be into.
It also has a cover blurb from Morgan Matson, and as much as I think cover blurbs are really not useful items for readers to pick books off of, hey, I love Morgan Matson, so what can I say. Plus one for this book.
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
The cover and title are both lame-ish, but I read the jacket blurb and was obligated to buy it. It's set in Boston, and as an adoring new resident (Cambridge counts, right?) of this incredible city, I had to check it out. I mean, I adore books where I can identify parts of the setting, so it's cool. (I'm looking at An Abundance of Katherines -- the part set in Chicago.)
Also, the idea seems fun, the characters seem likable, and again, read the first couple of pages and was into the voice.
I'll get back to you on these books. So far, I've read six novels in 2013, but I'm honest-to-God not kidding when I say I have zero time. I just finished Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (GREAT book, by the way) and it was by virtue of the fact that I treat reading novels like a job now. It's like I have to schedule it into my day, and I war-horse through those chapters like I'm leading a charge.
I mentioned before that I continue to buy paper copies. What I do is this. Well-known books, books like Ask the Passengers and Code Name Verity, etc., I buy on my Kindle because they're new releases and I don't want to pay double the price for hard cover. (Certain exceptions being books in a series that I'm already following or new releases from an author I'm particularly fond of; so The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson, Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, etc.) My hypothesis is that hard covers are just not going to do that well in the future. I'm sure they're already doing poorly now, but I don't know if they'll even keep making them. I like hard covers, sure, but I prefer paperbacks more, and I just don't see the point in buying twenty-dollar hard cover new releases when I can pay nine bucks on my Kindle.
And then, I thought, I will be very sad if and when bookstores go under for good. Because the point of buying paperbacks for me is they're books I'm willing to take a chance on. I haven't heard about them from recommendations, I haven't read any reviews, and I likely don't know much about that author. Paperbacks are the ones I buy in bookstores by virtue of stumbling upon them while scanning the shelves. People will always buy books like Code Name Verity, Song of Achilles, Ask the Passengers. They caught on quickly and benefited from marketing and huge word-of-mouth. But what about those smaller titles that people end up buying because they find them randomly while perusing the shelves? Some books will never get great word-of-mouth, and if bookstores die, once those books have missed the boat, sales will fizzle out and die because nobody will be looking for them. Worse, nobody will ever accidentally see anything they're not looking for.
It'll be a hugely tragic day for my book purchasing experience when I can't scan shelves anymore. I'm not sure how I'll come across that magical new discovery. There's really no experience on Amazon that can replicate that. Maybe someone can create a kind of virtual bookshelf where book buyers can peruse by spines and titles in author-alphabetical order like in a bookstore.
Until then, I'm glad I have a bookstore close by.