The BLOG: Lifestyle

Speaking of books…

Earlier this month, Francis X. Clines of the New York Times published an editorial with the heading, “Indie Bookstores Are Back, With a Passion.” While providing a brief recap of the ups and downs faced by independent bookstores over the past two decades, he expressed real optimism for the future of bookselling.

After decades of reading sobering news about our industry, this editorial provided a real tonic. It also reinforced what my colleagues and I have been feeling as we go about our daily work. The pendulum seems to be swinging back in the direction of paper-and-board books. We hear it in the comments of our customers and see it in their purchasing decisions. Four or five years ago, we watched as long-time loyal readers turned away from physical books and began reading almost exclusively on screens.

Happily, over the past two or three years, a number of these people have found their way back into the bookstore. Many of these folks yearned for the sensual pleasure of holding a book in their hands. More than ever, they’ve come to appreciate cover art, quality paper, and good design, all of which enhance the experience of reading. A number of people we’ve spoken with also crave an escape from computer work. Of course, nearly everyone has access to devices and most people are reading on several platforms. We can handle that! As long as folks buy physical books when they really want to savor the reading experience or share this experience with a friend—the proverbial image of curling up with a good book comes to mind—our neighborhood bookstores can thrive.

Our bookstore is situated in the small town of Beverly Farms, on Boston’s North Shore. As members of the New England bookselling community, we take heart from the fact that many of our neighboring towns continue to support their community booksellers. If you take a drive up the coast, you’ll discover bookstores in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Gloucester, Rockport, Newburyport, and Portsmouth. Each of these intriguing bookstores has its own personality and focus and you’re sure to return from your excursion feeling refreshed. Hopefully, you’ll have a nice stack of books to see you through until next time.

Books are our touchstones. When I come across A Child’s Garden of Verses, I see myself curled up on the nubby, green davenport next to my great-grandmother. Nancy Drews? They epitomize happy escapes from the activities—and pressures—of childhood. It’s a feeling that endures today when I pick up a Pat Conroy novel or browse through art books while seeking a respite from winter.

We sometimes hear grownups lament that today’s children don’t really care about books. We have evidence to the contrary! When we bring book fairs to our local schools, the students actually hug the books to their chests. Overheard at one recent fair, a five-year-old pointed to a Froggy book and exclaimed to his buddy, “I love this book! I read it when I was little!”

Recently, several well-received novels have been published in which physical books are central to the story. One, “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry,” by Gabrielle Zevin, takes place in a Massachusetts bookstore. It is a warm-hearted romance with a highly original plot that will resonate with readers. Also featured on our fiction table—and selling briskly—is “The Little Paris Bookshop.” Nina George’s protagonist is a long-time Parisian bookseller, Jean Perdu, operator of a literary apothecary on a barge on the Seine. He soon unties his boatful of books and heads south towards the Mediterranean, dispensing book suggestions to troubled souls and seekers along the way.

Am I biased in favor of physical books and bricks-and-mortar bookstores? Yes! In the words of Vincent Van Gogh, “So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.” Need a little reminder? Stop by your neighborhood bookstore and enjoy a nice browse.

Pam Price is co-owner/manager of The Book Shop of Beverly Farms. She has worked in the book business since 1975. Her email address is: [email protected].