You are walking down the sidewalk, you blink, you take a
double-look and that’s when you realize it’s gone: your favorite, little bookstore. You say to yourself, “Oh, no, I loved that place.”
You could live anywhere, USA. But, in this instance, the bookstore is, or was, Fremont Place Books. Henry Burton, the owner, wrote in a letter, “We have reached the point where the business is no longer sustainable.”
And there it is, the word “sustainable.” Four syllables everyone throws around lately. It’s all “sustainable” this, “sustainable” that around town. Yet, in every neighborhood, independent businesses (bookstores, hardware — you name it) can no longer sustain. Thanks to us, the sustainable-loving public, so we say.
Is it just me who feels the need to ask: So, what is so sustainable about a culture that wants to order everything on-line, or buy at big-box stores at such discounted prices that no independent business can compete with them?
Oh, I do run the risk of sounding hopelessly passé, but the next words come directly from a voice screaming inside my head: I don’t write to be downloaded.
I acknowledge that reading is good, no matter the source. Still, I can’t help but want to be respectively read between two thoughtfully designed book covers. Or in print, just like the paper you are holding in your own two hands. I don’t think this is too much to ask for all of my hard work.
Besides, print is green, or greener than anything your PC is made of. When I did an Internet search for a list of raw materials used to make up PCs, the list begins with copper, lead, aluminum, platinum, tin, gold, silver, bromine and mercury. And that’s just for starters. I didn’t even get to the polymers.
Then I asked the same question about basic book materials: rags and wood pulp — that’s it. Another site read: recycled clothing and recycled paper. Now which is greener and more sustainable?
So, go green, readers! Buy a book!
In fact, I hope what you are doing right this moment is reading by sunlight from directly overhead, your bottom snug in a low-riding canvas chair set up on the green of any open space, the green I most cherish.
I’m well aware I may belong to a vanishing species. Still, I’m no technophobe. I rely on my PC as much as the next guy. I just need to find a way to say that, no matter what the technology giants need from “consumers” to ensure their own continuance — that is, that we keep buying the next, new iWhatever, no questions asked — nothing, believe me, is outmoded, uncool, unsexy, inadequate, nongreen or unsustainable about holding a book in your hands. Don’t be fooled. Kindle? As in burn the book? Never.
Even if my harping on this issue is met with limited success, I will continue to wave my “buy a book from an independent bookstore” banner. Because books don’t belong in huge warehouse stores, either — dispirited as the pavement that surrounds them — but in close, cozy, intimate rooms where you just might meet another booklover and get to talking about the books and authors you love most, which is what happens pretty much every time I visit one of the last remaining independents.
It may be a small thing, interacting with a stranger in a bookstore, buying a book from a humble man like Henry Burton, recognizing ourselves in someone else’s story. And yet these are the strongest connections know to man, sustainable only if we participate.
And the best part is you are making “community,” the other four-syllable word everyone likes to say but more and more of us know only in the abstract. I’m talking real people, people!
We, all of us, need to protect what we love. If you say you love Queen Anne Books, Elliott Bay Book Co., Left Bank Books, Magnolia’s Bookstore and all the other independents that hang on (by a thread, likely), buy your books from them.
Show me the love.
P. S.: I actually loved Henry, if only because I saw how much he loved books, and because I could only guess at how much he’d read and supported other bookstores to arrive at this love.
Mary Lou Sanelli’s latest book is “Among Friends.” Visit her website: www.marylousanelli.com.Sanelli will read at East West Bookshop, 6500 Roosevelt Way N. E., on April 23 at 7 p. m., and at the Mountlake Terrace Library, 23300 58th Ave. W., in Mountlake Terrace on April 30 at 11 a. m.