Life Writing

The Sad Death of Libraries and Bookstores

Libraries and bookstores aren’t dead, yet.

I’m saddened to believe, however, that it’s inevitable. Last time I was in a bookstore, the e-book section had expanded. There were e-book readers you could buy, and there were computer stations with e-book listings that you could order for download. Basically it seems you could walk out of that store with a new e-book reader and a new collection of e-books in it. Pricey initial purchase, but after that, not really costly any more.

The tech geek in me likes the cool factor. The nostaglic geek in me is sad. I love regular books. They seem done for. Kaput. They’re bidding us farewell, quietly, during a very long death that’ll be paired up with their bookhouses, the libraries and bookstores.

I see it as likely that eventually there won’t be any regular public libraries. There won’t be bookstores. Maybe they’ll become like ATMs are for banking. ALMs. Automatic Literacy Machines. ALMs for the poor! ALMs for the poor! The “libraries” will be the free e-books. The rest will have a price. Convenient, somewhat cool, but amazingly sad.

In the end it’ll be about money. Cheaper rent for an ALM space. No staff. No bathrooms to clean. No late fines to deal with.

The only silver lining I see is that we’ll save a lot of trees. Not that the environment’s going to be all clean, though, especially considering that the majority of printed books will end up in landfills or burned, just to make space. What remains of printed books will be in the hands of those who know how to appreciate them.

Sadder still, I’ll probably be a contributor. I’ll get an e-book reader myself, because I won’t want to be limited. I’ll probably see my work more in digital format than on the page.

At the very least, if this becomes a reality, I’ll be one of those mourning the deaths of bookhouses. If I had any musical ability, I’d be playing Taps.

By J. Parrish Lewis

J. Parrish Lewis was born and raised in Maryland. In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home. His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit. He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley. Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate. He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.

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