By: Nick Rittenhouse ~Guest Writer~
Today, we face a choice between convenience and experience. For me, this is apparent through the slow demise of brick-and-mortar bookstores at the hands of Amazon’s lower prices and expedient shipping.
Swift commerce and the resulting satisfaction are, by no means, problematic. However, those who find themselves blindly using Amazon must realize that there is an opportunity cost brought about by their restless fingers and incessant clicking. This comes in the form of wider, more visible selections instead of those provided by narrow algorithms and friendly, local faces of those who are likely to be interested in reading and learning. A book and an opportunity for social growth. Not a bad deal, eh?
Craving the gaze of thousands of paper spines and the comfort of a community, I do my best to attend small bookshops. In Columbus, my hometown, there is a stunningly unique shop called The Book Loft. It’s a beautiful establishment just minutes away from the Ohio Statehouse. Upon entering from a lovely courtyard adjacent to the pre-Civil War Era building, one is greeted with the scent of off-white paper and the sight of a crammed, intimate maze of books. One is tempted to jump immediately for the directory, as there are 32 rooms of books, all with very different themes. The hallways are narrow and the rooms quaint, but this is by no means a deterrent to locals who would like to support a local business and bump into those in the community. I mention this because it is difficult, indeed impossible, to walk through the The Book Loft without having to make way for a passerby. More than once, I have actually walked into people while trying to find my way to the coveted room of contemporary literature. Smiles, not grimaces, marked the faces of my victims as I awkwardly proclaimed my apology and continued my mission.
While I never have specific titles in mind when I go to The Book Loft, I do have a broad recognition of authors.
This allows for a constant assault on the eyes by colorful spines and provocative titles, as I would like to purchase and read many more books than is realistic. When my interest is sparked by a book, I enjoy flipping through the pages, stopping on a random page just to appreciate the beauty of the sentences without having to appeal to the plot or topic being discussed. These are extravagances unavailable to the Amazon customer.
Sadly, it is all too easy to put the desired book down, whip the trusty phone out and check the listed price of the same work on Amazon. I not only hear of others doing this, but I myself have also done it when faced with the daunting retail price of a new hardcover. After all, how does one justify paying 40 percent more for the book before them today instead of having a discounted copy delivered in two days?
Amazon has impressively cultivated the infamous duo of convenience and affordability. One is able to make purchases while at work, out with the family or in the bathroom, and does so knowing that they have likely received the lowest available price. From an economic standpoint, it is difficult to challenge the choice of consumers to click for a book instead of presenting one to a cashier.
However, experience shouldn’t be overtaken by convenience. There are certain things that should be savored: Book-buying is but one example.
Bookstore managers employ massive creativity when shaping the layout and feel of their buildings. The shelf placement, soundtracks and friendly, helpful service are all meant to afford a visitor with the feelings of belonging and comfort. A step into a shop is a step into a realm in which one can learn about them through language, both written and spoken.
Take the time to visit your local bookstore. I know The Ohio Bookstore in downtown Cincinnati has impressed many a visitor with its five floors and unique selection. Visit, relax, buy a cup of coffee, turn off that pesky phone and enjoy the mystery that is language.