Why We Should Cherish The Bookstore Experience In The Digital Age

by Alyssa Evans

We live in a digital world and traditions of the past are quickly fading out to make way for technological substitutes.

Jobs that were once executed by humans are being replaced with machines, and malls have seen rapid declines because of online shopping options.

Some of these advancements are good because they allow for more precision or efficiency of day-to-day tasks, but others are taking away important traditions in favor of an online, lackluster experience.

In the past few years, bookstores have been one of the many industries that took a dip because of technological changes in how people buy and read books.

In 2011, Borders, one of the larger booksellers in America, filed for bankruptcy, showing the dramatic decline of in-store retail in the 21st century.

This was a sad day for readers everywhere who were forced to begin to really acknowledge the downward spiral to which their favorite stores were descending.

Today, large book retailers like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million have managed to stay afloat, but that doesn’t mean they have remained undamaged by the digital age.

Two main competitors have threatened the in-store experience they offer: electronic devices and online shopping.

Our phones and computers can do just about anything these days, including holding electronic books and magazines.

The Amazon Kindle was first released in 2007, and since then, has been developing with several different models to give readers all the books they want, at their fingertips, on one device.

Barnes & Noble developed a similar device, The Nook, and Apple made books available for download on iPhones and iPads. That means no more turning the crisp corners of a book and instead, swiping your finger to the next page.

Some people aren’t quite ready to give up their paper pages, but don’t want to make the trip to a local bookstore. Instead, they order novels online.

It seems easy and efficient, but after paying the extra cost for shipping and having to wait several days for books to arrive, it may have more cons than pros.

But regardless, there's just something about walking into a bookstore that makes a true reader's heart jump for joy. Whether it’s a small indie bookshop, a second-hand store or a large two-story Barnes & Noble, the experience is special.

We walked in looking for an adventure in a new novel to spark our minds. Perhaps one of our favorite writers just released something new, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it.

Or, we just finished up a romance story and want something a little more mysterious and action-packed. Either way, walking into a bookstore is a completely different experience than opening a website or downloading a file.

In a bookstore, time can escape us. Being surrounded by walls and walls of stories leaves limitless opportunities to find exactly what were looking for, or a catchy title we had no idea even existed before.

Walking up and down the aisles at a bookstore, we can look at hundreds of covers and read dozens of synopses.

We can open a book and flip through the pages, finding a paragraph and seeing if it triggers our attention. Online, you can’t skim through the book; sometimes, you can’t even get a sneak peak.

At $10 to $15 each, sometimes it’s nice it to sit down in a bookstore and read the first chapter to see if it’s worth your investment. That way, when you leave the store, you know you’ve made a solid purchase.

When we shop online, we’re often looking for one specific product. In a bookstore, you may stumble upon a novel that never would have showed up in your search, and that you never would have otherwise read.

In-store browsing allows us to step out of comfort zone, sometimes without us even knowing because so many more options are presented to us in a short walk around the store than on an online search page.

And, when you’ve found it — that perfect book that you can’t wait to curl up with at home — you can have it immediately. There's no three-to-five days for shipping and handling.

That story is yours, and it's a tangible adventure. It’s not a file on your phone; it sits next to your bed, and then on your shelf. It reminds you of a certain story.

With books, there are no technical glitches, no screen glare and no need to be fragile. You can write in it, underline your favorite lines or fold the corner as a bookmark.

You can throw it across the room in shock when you reach the biggest plot twist yet, or sit at the beach without fear of it getting covered in sand.

You can spill a drop of your morning coffee, or your nighttime tea; it gives it character! The book is yours to wear and tear and use how books are supposed to be used.

The experience you have with a story starts from the moment you first pick it up at a bookstore.

It’s a tradition we’ve had for centuries that slowly is fading away as technology wants to provide “better” ways that aren’t always better.

So, what can we do? We may not be able to stop the digital age from growing and expanding, but we can have a say about how far it goes.

If you’re an avid reader who likes to wander around bookstores for hours and take home spanking-new paperback novels, the best thing you can do is to keep supporting your local bookstores.

Fight the desire to download a copy because you’re low on gas or order it online because you don’t want to get off the couch.

Book buying is an experience, and it’s what you pay for when you walk into a bookstore.

Electronic reading may seem like an easy fix, but it is not until the luxury of browsing for hours in a bookstore is taken away from us completely that we will truly appreciate how special of an experience it was.

So, get up, go out and find a story that speaks to you. Pick it up, flip through its pages and know that when you walk out with a novel, you’re starting a new literary adventure. You're helping to keep the tradition of bookstores alive.