Once upon a time, book stores were like treasure maps

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book storesIn today’s world, readers can find just about any book they want. If a particular book, fiction or non-fiction, is not available at one of your local book stores, you can always head online. The most obvious place online to find a book is Amazon, but there are plenty of other sites as well.

Then, of course, there are modern devices for reading e-books, one of the most popular being the Kindle. With these e-readers you can browse many online sites, then purchase and download books straight to your device for ease of reading, all without having to travel to a store and without having to purchase an actual, physical book. And lots of e-books are free, especially many of the older classics of literature and quite often new books by independent writers and/or publishers.

There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s all great. It’s perfect for the book-reading consumer.

But sometimes I have to wonder if something has been lost along the way.

Perusing stores for a book you really want is fun. And what’s just as fun is poring through boxes and over shelves to discover a gem you hadn’t expected, maybe even learning about an interesting book you hadn’t even known existed. It’s one of the reasons I still love to go to used book stores, and sometimes to a Barnes and Noble or Joseph-Beth.

Hunting for a book, and discovering unknown books, is like going on an adventure. It’s like journeying back a few hundred years and you are a pirate out there searching for lost treasures and secret gems. I’m exaggerating, of course, but it’s still a lot of fun.

Plunging your way through book store shelves and digging into stacks of books is often as fun as reading a good book. A book isn’t just another thing you purchase; it can be something you put some physical investment into, something you put some time into, and some thought.

Then, after you pay for your book, you take it home and open its pages to other worlds. Or you place it on a stack (or truckload) of other books you haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

bookI remember back in the 1970s when I was a kid that book stores weren’t always so easy to find. Sure, there were plenty of book stores in cities, but the big chain stores hadn’t come along yet and most book stores weren’t gigantic. Still, you could spend hours glancing over and digging into the shelves in these smaller stores. You might not find what you want. Often you didn’t. And if there was something you really, really wanted, you would have to ask a clerk to order it for you, which would usually include some extra charges and the book might not be available any time soon.

Sounds scary, right? No. It was actually a lot of fun. Back then a book store was like opening a wrapped present, a gift from a stranger and a gift of which you had no idea what was inside. Most times there would be something grand. Nearly always would there be something surprising. And yes, every once in a while you would walk away disappointed. But the possibilities, for good and ill, were part of the fun.

I miss that.

Oh, it can still be found, but that sense isn’t as strong as it used to be. Maybe I’m just enjoying reminiscing about “the good ole days.” Still, I often find that magical feeling whenever I hit a library, and I’m glad of it.

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A former newspaper editor for two decades in Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, Ty now earns his lunch money as a fiction writer, mostly in the fantasy and horror genres. He is vice president of Rogue Blades Foundation, a non-profit focused upon publishing heroic literature. In his free time he enjoys tabletop and video gaming, long swording, target shooting, reading, and bourbon. Find City of Rogues and other books and e-books by Ty Johnston at Amazon.

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