July 29, 2011 § 5 Comments

To Kindle or not to Kindle. That is the question.

On the one hand, books have played a significant role in my life. I love them. I love their heft, their solid feel, the way the pages riffle as you fan them. I love the aroma of a good book, the enticing allure of the dust jacket, the texture of the pages, the quality of the binding. I love to see the words in print, to savor the typography, to marvel at never-before-seen illustrations. I love to find a nugget of the author’s personal story on the inside sleeve. I could never opt for an electronic book reader if it meant the extinction of books with real paper pages and bindings.

On the other hand, I have hundreds of books, and an electronic book would help reduce the numbers I have to deal with. Too, with an e-reader, you can literally carry an entire library onto a plane or across town. It’s like having a Bookmobile in your hand.

But what is the effect of e-readers on the availability of book stores? I would be lost without access to a good book seller who is local, knows what I want, and offers a stock of tomes that appeal to my sensibilities. Book shops are one of the great pleasures in my life. I remember spending youthful hours in the Sans Souci Bookstore in Lafayette, LA., a modest shop with books filling every space in abundance, something a small-town boy could barely imagine. Over the years I have spent countless hours browsing in book shops. I have gone out of my way to find book sellers in Paris, London, Munich, Rome, New York, Boston, San Francisco and God knows how many other locales. Each local shop offers a different stock in trade to please the palate of its local clientelle. What a pleasure to see the parcels of books ordered awaiting pickup, and to hear the familiarity between seller and reader inquiring about a title or just exchanging pleasantries.

Over the years the book-selling trade has been taken over increasingly by chains and e-tailers like Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Books-A-Million and (now almost extinct) Borders. They were preceded by the Walden Books and Brentano’s chains, who now are past. Chains are giant corporations that make deals with publishers to hype certain books, for which the chains make millions, pushing many deserving authors to the back shelves or out of the store entirely. Of course, any bookseller in a way dictates the readers’ choices by what is in stock, but the big chains go for the big bucks. Regional writers get lost in the shuffle. I wonder whether you would find Eudora Welty, Larry Brown, Ernest Hemingway or Will Faulkner on the bookshelves of the big chains today if those magnificent authors were unknown and just starting out.

Right here in Mississippi we have three phenomenal independent booksellers: Square Books in Oxford; Lemuria in Jackson; and Turnrow in Greenwood. These three stores are as good as any independent shops you will find anywhere. They offer books that the local owners know will interest their readers. Your book choices are not dictated out of corporate headquarters in a skyscraper in a big city up north. The shelves are not stocked by a corporate drone with eye fixed solely on the bottom line. The owners stock titles they know will enrich their patrons and the community as a whole. The local bookseller looks you in the eye and says, “Here is an author that will interest you” or “Have you read this?” They listen to what interests you and respond. The local readers and local sellers become an organic unit.

So that is my dilemma. I am not adverse to supplementing my love of books with an e-reader if … (1) it does not make books any less available … and … (2) it does not adversely impact the availability of independent booksellers.

In the midst of my dithering over this dilemma, I received the Square Books Dear Reader Newsletter that included the following:

KINDLE = Amazon only. ALL OTHER DEVICES = Square Books. Want Choice? Don’t get left to their devices. Google e-books are available at coompetitive prices from and are compatible with any device (smartphones, laptops, tablets and e-reading devices including the Nook and the Sony Reader), except the Kindle. Those who surrender to Amazon’s monopoly reduce local economics, diminish their consumer power, and imperil freedom of choice!

Voila. An answer to my quandary. I can buy a Kindle and work against my interests, or I can acquire another e-reader that uses Google e-books and protect my interests.

I am not particularly fond of the idea of battery-powered books, but I recognize the advantages. I just might pick up one of those new-fangled gadgets after all, but there’s no way that it will take the place of my need for books without batteries.


  • Lazy Writer says:

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  • Aimee says:

    I feel the same way! Thank you so much for this. After reading this post, I did some looking around, and found out that the Independent Booksellers Association partnered w/ Google books, so it’s not just Square Books, but other booksellers across the country who will benefit. Also, many library systems offer a large selection of e-books. The system in our county isn’t compatible with kindle right now, but maybe later this year. Other e-readers are, though. I’m debating now about whether to get a nook for my birthday (which, as you know is coming up). I think there’s a place for e-readers AND books. As someone who still listens to LPs (thanks to you, my dear dad), I think maybe I can handle both analog and digital books too.

  • stewart parrish says:

    Choctaw Books in Jackson is another great store. All used books and not precisely catalogued, but if you have time to peruse, many treasures await including First editions in varying degrees of condition. You can literally purchase a dozen hardbacks for less than $100.

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