The term Cyber Monday was first appeared in a press release from the US National Retail Federation in 2005 and has since been adopted by retailers around the world. In the midst of a pandemic, it has become especially significant. For some of us, buying online has become the only comfortable option. But, when it comes to buying books, it isn’t as satisfying as shopping in person.
Music lovers cherish their memories of catching international acts in local venues before the band was selling out stadiums, and these stories can assume mythical status. I’ve had a similar experience, seeing a band I liked at a small venue, after seeing the same band perform at a large venue, after streaming the band’s music online. The product was the same—it was the same music—but the experiences were very different.
Where you buy books creates a similarly unique experience. Browsing in a small bookstore, you can feel the passion exuberating from shelves of carefully curated works of art. You notice the intimacy of the space. You get this feeling that the staff share your passion and are dedicated to connecting you with the right book. You become not only a customer, but a member of the bookstore’s community.
Larger bookstores can be intimidating, but there is much to be desired. After all, it’s a place of books and the larger selection creates so much opportunity! The amount of choice may seem overwhelming, but you will likely find little nooks of selected displays along the way—a little bookstore within a bookstore—perhaps an exhibit of staff picks or a collection of books by local authors, gems that may not have made it onto a bestseller list but could be exactly right for you.
Buying books online, like streaming music, provides unparalleled access, especially for readers in rural or remote communities. And it has been a lifesaver for both retailers and readers struggling through lockdowns. But it can’t replace the experience of physically browsing in a bookstore. The instant gratification of holding a book in your hand, its weight and the feel of the paper, cannot be overstated.
The promise of a good book is tantalizing; the act of choosing one (or two or three or four) can be enchanting. If you haven’t experienced the satisfaction of engaging with your local bibliophiles, I highly recommend it, if it’s an option for you. It’s just . . . different. In a wonderful way.