Later today I’ll be driving north up the coast to attend a book signing in Santa Barbara. The event will be held at Chaucer’s, which the LA Times has called “the little bookstore that could“. Chaucer’s has flourished and grown during a time when other local retailers, including mega-bookstores such as Borders and Barnes and Noble, have faltered and closed their doors in the wake of Amazon and the advance of online marketing.
I’m enthusiastic about the prospect of enjoying some tangible, human interaction that is centered around reading and books. I should seek out this experience more often, I suddenly realize. In years gone by, I used to make regular pilgrimages to bookstores, if only for a fly-by and to grab a cup of java. Nowadays, most of those bookstores have disappeared. Seldom did a month go by in the past when I didn’t find some reason for dropping by our local library. Today, I always seem to be hunched behind my laptop or iPad.
So here’s my epiphany for the day (you’re probably already aware of it): when we replaced our physical reading venues with virtual ones, we also lost a quality of personal connection. Those connections may have seemed fleeting and minor in real time, but they added real value, I think. I miss them.
So tonight, I’m planning to set things back to rights. I’m going to honor and celebrate the human connection of reading, by driving two hours to attend a book reading at Chaucer’s. (Tonight’s author, by the way, will be Robin Winter. She will be signing and reading from her latest science fiction novel, WATCH THE SHADOWS. If you’re in the Santa Barbara area, I hope to see you there!)
Am I alone in feeling that something important has been lost during the gradual transition to an online reading world? Please share your experience about what has changed for you as a reader in recent years.