Saturday, June 4, 2022

“A great conversation of readers and writers across space and time”

On a new book, In Praise of Good Bookstores:
I am the kind of person who is all but unable to walk into a bookstore and leave again empty-handed. ....

...Jeff Deutsch describes the features that make good bookstores so irresistible. He observes, for example—a point that seems obviously correct in retrospect, but that I had never thought of in quite these terms before—that the most important product sold by a bookstore is not the books themselves but rather the browsing experience. The good bookstore is designed to lure the customer deeper and deeper inside, in search of that serendipitous discovery: the book one had been looking for without even knowing it. ....

A good bookstore, whatever its distinctive focus, is designed to promote the experience of browsing, of getting “lost in the stacks.” It helps readers navigate the incredible abundance of books available, playing a filtering role that, when well performed, wins its customers’ trust. A good bookstore’s value is not chiefly economic; rather, bookstores are cultural institutions, sharing with readers the gift of participation in a great conversation of readers and writers across space and time, the true value of which may appear in slow and unpredictable ways not readily captured by standard measures of utility. Bookstores become sites of community where readers enjoy the “companionship of books” and experience a democratic chorus of different perspectives. And they invite us into a more leisurely, dilated experience of time, “the slow time of the browse,” in contrast to the focus on speed and efficiency that necessarily drives much of life. ....
Peter C. Meilaender, "One of the Greatest Instruments of Civilization," The Dispatch, June 4, 2022.

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