Guest Post: Why bookstores are the future, not the past by Chris Allen

Chris Allen 2012National bookshop day is this Saturday 10 August. I’ll be getting out and about to support my local bookstores and am putting the call out for others to do the same. It’s a day to have a browse amongst the shelves, say g’day to your bookstore owner, even meet an author, and why not buy a little something for yourself or for someone you love – whether a thriller to enjoy, a coffee table book to display or a romance to indulge in – give the gift of a great book!

Here are a few reasons why, to me, bookshops are still the way of the future.

They’re a vital part of the local community

“I love that the staff know me, were happy to stock my book because they knew me and are active members of our community.” – Johanna Baker Dowell, author of Business & Baby on Board, via Facebook

DEFENDER_mrYes, those big multi-level venues that housed thousands of books are almost gone. High rents and the value of excess stock, combined with the explosion of buying books online, unfortunately contributing to their demise.

So is there still a place for bookstores in our community? Of course there is! Just imagine how empty the streets would seem if we didn’t have any local stores, the fruit shop, the bakery, the butcher, the florist and the BOOKSHOP!

While we all like to shop online for convenience, personal relationships are what we crave. The retailer who knows your son, remembers how old he is, and asks what he’s reading at the moment before helping you to pick out a birthday gift for a friend – well, that kind of knowledge is only gleaned from times you’ve spent in-store and many conversations getting to know each other.

JChris Allen Clovellyust as we all enjoy the support of friends and family, our local shopkeepers are part of our community, they contribute to and enhance our experience of life and right now they need our support like never before. Let’s face it, community was, is and remains an important concept and one that helps us all to feel a sense of genuine belonging.

Books are irreplaceable

“Time poor shopper: Books make a great birthday present for any age, very young or old!” – Jane, via Facebook

There’s something about the feel of books that will never be replaced by an eReader. There is convenience in eBooks, sure, as well as portability and cost-effectiveness, all good things to enjoy in a time of digital publishing.

HUNTER_mrBut we continue to wax lyrical about the joy of opening a good book. It’s their comforting smell, the feel of the paper page, the creak of the book binding, the touch of an embossed cover under our fingers as we read.

Books will always have a special place in our homes. Arranged artfully, by author or series, or even by the colour of the cover or thickness, they are more than a bundle of pages. Their presence transports me with a glance to the times and places I’ve read about and imagined, also reminding me of the places where I’ve actually read these treasured tomes – as a child in Perth; on trucks, trains and airplanes; in the jungle with water dripping down my back; or lounging poolside on our honeymoon.

It’s this genuine affection for the book’s most traditional form, not unlike the vinyl record, that means they are still very much something to desire, collect and enjoy, over and again.

A place to discover and explore

“I love browsing & discovering new books. Online is fine if I know what I’m looking for, but if I don’t, then I prefer browsing the shelves and also getting advice and suggestions from knowledgeable staff members.” – Melissa, via Facebook

On those rare occasions where there is a spare ten minutes or half an hour to retreat from our hyper-connected lives, it can hardly be spent anywhere better than browsing in a bookstore. Where else, but perhaps a quiet library, can you potter and flick to your heart’s content, wander through the aisles and go on a journey across continents, subjects and generations?

Amazon’s algorithm – designed to help us discover books based on our preferences – may be mighty sophisticated, but what of the stories and books that you may never have found except by chance as you wander into a bookstore? I’m thinking of the beautiful coffee table books on architecture and travel and iconic pop culture figures that I would otherwise not have thought to search out. I’m thinking of the rare first edition Ian Fleming paperbacks that I found hidden away in the discount ‘used’ rack of the old second hand bookstores of my childhood. These would not have been suggested based on my current buying habits online. There’s something about bookstores that bring out an impulse to discover and uncover literary artefacts to collect and revere, items that say ‘this is what I’m about.’

Equally as important as being able to predict human behaviour is our ability to be unpredictable, and the consequences thereof. I ask you, if Albert Einstein had decided to go with the flow in 1916 instead of persevering to publish his paper the theory of relativity, where would we be now?

Staying connected in real life

“It is a local meeting point for mums with toddlers for story time as well as wonderful author events and fab staff. I try to combine my book purchases between online, ebooks and from the store. I can’t imagine life without a local independent bookstore and try to support them as much as possible.” – Erin, via Facebook

Facebook is a fantastic spot to continue conversations, we know this for sure, but it doesn’t beat getting face-to-face with other readers and authors to talk about books at your local bookstore. The events calendar at your local store, library and community centre presents an opportunity to meet authors, both local and from further afield, and get to know other bookish types.

In order to stay up-to-date with what’s planned, you can join the events email list or subscribe to their blog, like their Facebook page or simply ask next time you’re in the shop (what a concept!) to find out how your local bookstore likes to publicise their special events. That’s why authors continue to get out and meet readers at book clubs, do bookstore signings, and collaborate on special events – just like meeting people out at Pages & Pages bookstore this Saturday – hint, hint – we genuinely do want to say g’day!

Of all my ruminations, this is for sure: the act of telling and reading stories, thereby firing up our imaginations and learning new things about the world, is far from being extinct. The rate of change in our lives happens faster and faster, and we are becoming increasingly interconnected, but storytelling remains a constant force in everything we do, from entertainment and marketing to teaching and connecting people.

Those entrepreneurial bookstore owners who can see the opportunities inherent in bringing our communities together online and in real life, and innovating throughout a new age of digital publishing, they, the pioneers and trailblazers, will stay on trend and relevant, playing an important role in modern society and, with our support, continuing to flourish.

Chris will be at Pages & Pages this Saturday 10 August between 4-5pm.

You can buy my eBooks from Pages & Pages here

There will also be some special edition print copies available too

About the Author

Before penning his Alex Morgan espionage series, Chris Allen served as a Paratrooper with three Commonwealth armies; undertook humanitarian aid in East Timor; protected Sydney’s iconic Opera House sails post 9/11; and as Sheriff of New South Wales, held one of Australia’s oldest law enforcement appointments.

Chris’s first novel in the Intrepid series, Defender, was self-published before being re-released by Momentum Books with his second novel, Hunter, at the end of 2012. Both novels rocketed to the top of the charts on iTunes and Amazon with Hunter becoming a bestseller and there is a US film / TV franchise based on his novels in development. His third title, Avenger, will be published next year.

Chris writes of his love for the thriller genre and the cult action TV programs and movies from his youth at intrepidallen.com/blog, or tune in at Facebook at facebook.com/intrepidallen.

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