My mom called today and wanted to make a trip to Gardner’s, our favorite used bookstore here in Tulsa. She and I go there once a month or so to browse and trade books—to the point where we once had enough trade credit that we got used to medium-strength exclamations of employee shock when they pulled up our account page. Was wandering around in there today, picking out some books, and I started thinking about why I like used bookstores so much.
Because, let’s face it, even factoring in my trade credit I could get some of the books I buy at Gardner’s for basically the same price on the internet. Probably 50% of the books that I have on my “Look For” list I could find used on Amazon for a dollar or two. I could do all that shopping in one place without leaving my house and have the all books that I am looking for right now for basically the same price.
But I don’t. And I think it’s because finding them at a bookstore, or finally getting them from my wish list on Paperbackswap, feels like unearthing a treasure. I get that special little ping of excitement from finding something that I’ve been wanting, that I’ve been looking for. (A related ping of excitement is the reason that I subscribe to magazines instead of just getting them digitally: I like coming home to fun mail.) And then there’s the feeling of “rescuing” a good book, which I also get. (Though let’s not talk about the slightly sad feeling I that comes from leaving a good book that I already own at the store . . .)
Do other book lovers feel this way? I don’t know. But that’s the random bit of self-examination I did today.
Excited about my haul, though. I got The Rainbow Goblins and The Secret Kitten for my niece, and Charles DeLint’s Waifs and Strays for me. I absolutely loved The Rainbow Goblins as a kid—Mom had an oversized edition that she got out for special occasions—and I had completely forgotten about The Secret Kitten. (Think it was one of the books that got water on it while being stored in the garage and was ruined. Still trying to re-find all the books that had to be thrown out that way, which is made difficult by the fact that I can’t remember some of them until I actually see them, like this one. . . )
So, yeah, while I like the convenience of being able to go online and buy pretty much any book I want whenever (and that would have been so nice as a pre-teen when I was searching for Tamora Pierce’s final Song of the Lionness book while it was out of print, with no internet!!!), I don’t think I’m ever going to give up that little ping of pleasure that comes from the random finds of the used bookstore.