books: The Beautiful Afterlife of Dead Books

An interesting outsider perspective on what looks like a fantastic used book shop, the Monkey's Paw.

The existential crisis facing bookstores & aficionados of the physical book is wide and deep, how much more intense for writers of something as specialized as literary fiction?

The Paw has embraced an idea I've been pushing here at the shop for a while now, valuing books as objects almost regardless of their utility, utility being the feature most prone to erosion by the internet and ereaders.  Being in a large city gives them an advantage here- the more books you see, the more cool books you see.  The larger your potential customer base, the more customers interested in your cool books.

In this area we need to sell Danielle Steel paperbacks and Malcom Gladwell books and high school required reading titles to survive, but there's been definite movement toward more collectible and/or interesting books.

I have a quibble with one of the author's comments:

So, I went to spend time at The Monkey’s Paw, feeling disgruntled about the ailing state of the literary novel; grieving somewhat for myself and my forthcoming effort (what a way for a new book to begin, intubated, on precious life support); and grieving for my children (what are the “soul effects” of choosing Angry Birds over Lewis Carroll?)

Judging by the evolution of the Fuss it isn't an either/or proposition.
His mania for Angry Birds hasn't dimmed his love of books in the slightest, they're two different enthusiasms that satisfy different facets of his personality.

The larger point, which I've grappled with, is that kids are growing up into a world vastly different from ours.  There are things I value that I'd like for him to also value, like books and reading, but he's not going to be living in my one teevee station, one movie theater, two radio station world.  He'll have to figure out how to navigate a world where the panoply of entertainment options are a mouse click (or a finger drag) away.
I'll provide what guidance I can while realizing it's mostly beyond my control.
I have to trust him to figure out how to live in his world, one that's already leaving me behind.

And as someone who spends their professional hours in a purported "book graveyard" I don't subscribe to the belief that any book is "dead".  It's sort of like how I tell sellers there are no bad books, just books we can't sell.

There are no dead books, just books waiting for readers.

No comments: