Saturday, July 11, 2020

Stumbling across an old bookstore

Literature for sale
Montreal, QC
August 2008
This photo originally shared on Instagram

The scene: Dusty, dog-eared books on a sun-drenched ledge outside a bookstore window in Old Montreal. I took this years ago, on a leisurely trip back to our old hometown, and it warms my soul every time I come across it.

That's because whenever I look back at this particular photo, I'm reminded that some scenes never get old, even if technology supposedly comes up with something better.

For the record, e-books aren't better. You don't magically stumble across them while walking the cobbled streets on a hot summer morning. You don't feel the aged paper in your hands as you idly chat with complete strangers about why Aristotle still rocks your world. You don't hear the joy in a bookseller's voice.

Algorithms may deliver the goods more efficiently. But they lost the soul of it all somewhere along the way, and no tweaks to the code will ever allow an app store to replicate the kind of experiences reflected, timelessly, in this window.

Economic models being what they are, it's entirely likely bookstores as we know them will slowly fade into history. Even if we aren't downloading e-books, these dusty, dog-eared books will eventually all arrive at our homes in Amazon boxes.

Which saddens me. Because no package on a doorstep ever ignited someone's fire for literature, and few experiences spark memories better than a chance encounter with a delightful old bookstore in the city you once called home.

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