Mon, Jul 28, 2014 05:19
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Vanishing Texas Bookstores
Vanishing Texas Bookstores   | books, Texas, business,

I miss Barber’s Bookstore of Fort Worth.  One of my desires from childhood was to live in a house with high ceilings and bookshelves crammed with books from floor to ceiling in every room.  Every room.  

Barber’s Bookstore was a place remarkably like that dream.  It had books from floor to ceiling on each floor. 

Desires change.  I now carry a library of ebooks on my phone that would take a block of houses to contain the hard copies. And the library I carry along with a huge juke box and movie theater and phone booth?  It weighs 4.9 ounces, or 140 grams.  I love that I can read anywhere and without a light jump by holding a smartphone up and moving a finger silently across glass.  Or listen to a book by plugging earphones into that piece of plastic while I drive to a destination.

It’s inevitable. Since we started abandoning our material incarnations of our ideas and ourselves, we have paid a price. I’m talking about the loss of the bookstores of Texas.

It’s been gradual.  The personal computer revolution that started in the early 1980s helped form the generation’s minds that are thirty and below.  That generation understands reading electronic text in a way more personal and integral to their beings than those over thirty ever will.  They receive their texts electronically and prefer a Kindle, or a Nook, or an iPad over carrying a knapsack of text printed and bound in heavy tomes.

The economic tipping point passed several years ago, and print books, much like printed newspapers, disappear and reincarnate as ebooks and epapers. As a result, the brick-and-mortar bookstores are vanishing.  The independent stores already were disappearing from the economic pressure of business models such as Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble and Borders.  But now even Borders has disappeared as we connect with stories more and more in cyberspace.

And now we see Larry McMurtry about to hold a huge auction this August in which he plans to downsize Booked Up’s inventory by several hundred thousand books.  Booked Up is a used bookstore in Archer City, northwest of Fort Worth.  I’m sad to see it, but understand. Still, without bookstores located within specific geographic confines, will unique Texas voices such as McMurtry continue to rise?  

E-books can and do exist without any printed versions. Hardback and paperback books are still everywhere you go.  Bookstores are not. Barring some disaster like a widespread electromagnetic pulse that throws civilization back a century, I suspect you’ll look up from your phone or tablet one of these days and realize the bookshelves are filled with something other than books.