My Barnes and Noble closed two weeks ago. I’m a little heartbroken. No, I didn’t really own it. But I’ve lived in the suburbs of a the same small, American capital city my whole life. I’m not even 30, and I feel like I already make those old-timer comments like, “I remember when there was nothing here but trees, and now there’s a Walmart!” This January, many of us in our suburb are making sad comments like “Remember when there was a Barnes and Noble here last week where we used to mix and mingle and be?” Or “remember when we were in high school and college and we would go and browse for an hour in that Blockbuster store that closed down last month?” For better or worse, it’s the end of an entertainment era in my hometown. I spent many a pleasant evenings in that Barnes and Noble, surrounded by books and coffee and my family or my friends, and later my boyfriend who was then later my husband, and most recently my children who loved that store. There are lots of memories there. Rather, there were lots of memories there.
It’s all very reminiscent of that movie I refer to way too often, You’ve Got Mail, when Meg Ryan writes to Tom Hanks about how her bookstore is closing. She writes that some foolish person will say it’s a tribute to our city the way things are always changing, but really, she’s devastated because tomorrow her store is going to turn into something really depressing, like a Baby Gap. Except for “my” store is turning into something even more depressing, a huge Nordstrom Rack. I went by a few days after they closed to take my daughter on a date to the Yoghut next door. It was surreal to see those construction workers taking down all the bookshelves and cutting wood to make tables for clothing displays. Ugh.
But I’m not sentimental.
Really, I don’t have any room to be sentimental. It’s my fault as much as anyone’s that bookstores are closing across the country. I’m the one going in and browsing, taking notes on what to check out from the library or download onto my Nook. I hardly ever bought anything bigger than a tall Mocha Latte in my favorite store of all time. I’m the one who has mounds of books that all came from used library book sales. I’m the one jumping on the free e-book deals of the day. I’m the one driving bookstores into the ground.
Good thing I’m not sentimental.
The one good thing that can come from all of this is there really needs to be a sequel to You’ve Got Mail. Now is the time for Meg Ryan’s character to open a quaint, Dickensian used bookstore and watch the conflict evolve as Tom Hanks’s character’s big box book store becomes obsolete in the wake of electronic book sales. I don’t know how it all should end, but I’m sure it’s great rom-com material.
I guess what it boils down to is a loss of atmosphere. The convenience of going right to a search bar and getting the exact book I want delivered wirelessly in seconds is a nice feature of the modern book era. But I want to browse and flip through real pages, I want to pick up movies and flip them over to read the synopsis on the back. I want to be surrounded by the possibilities.
When’s the next library book sale?