Art by Sybil Zhang
There is nothing like a used bookstore. Between the smell and the excitement of being surrounded by stories, my local used bookstore was one of my favorite places to spend an afternoon.
Sadly, bookstores, in general, are becoming less and less common. The number of bookstores has decreased by about 13,000 since 2007, according to Statista. Even here in Malibu a used bookstore, Bank of Books, closed in April 2016. In light of this decline, it’s important to remember the value of used bookstores.
Outside of aesthetic reasons, used bookstores are positive for literacy and the environment. They help keep books out of landfills and in the hands of readers by reclaiming, restoring and recirculating used books.
“In terms of the environment, the worst place for a book to end up is the landfill,” according to Nicole Gaddie’s article, “Keeping Books Out of Landfills” published July 4, 2012 by Oregon Public Brodcasting. “And in fact, a surprising number of books still do because many paper recycling facilities can’t process the glue that binds book spines. So if books are put out with the curbside recycling, there’s a good chance they will eventually wind up in a landfill.”
Books in used bookstores are also much less expensive than buying new, so they can have a hand in making literature more accessible. Libraries do this, too, but used bookstores allow people to take home a story and make it their own. Borrowing a book doesn’t allow the reader to underline, to write notes, or to constantly revisit a book.
Glendale’s last remaining used bookstore, Bookfellows, closed its doors this past August because it simply couldn’t justify renting a building since most of their business was done through online selling.
There’s nothing wrong with ordering books from online retailers, but there is an experience of being in a bookstore that cannot be recreated online. Used bookstores open up the possibility of discovery.
“It’s fine to surf the Net and look for books and everything, but if you come into a bookstore like this, you’re going to find things you never would have thought of,” said Bookfellow’s co-owner Malcolm Bell in an interview for Luke Y. Thompson’s article, “Bookfellows prepares to turn its last pages” published June 20, 2016 by Los Angles Times.
A used bookstore opens up the opportunity to discover new authors and genres. The cost of purchasing a book is low, allowing people to be more daring with their selections. Most people do not browse books online, they look for a specific title. A bookstore can keep browser’s attention for longer. A person who reads a variety of material can stumble upon new ideas and become more open-minded.
Support local used bookstore whenever possible and help keep the experience of browsing for books alive.
Follow Sarah Kiker on Twitter: @SarahKiker3