I was never out of love with bookstores.
There was never a moment where we walked away from each other. But I did get distracted. If I’m honest, I did have eyes for another. Who?
I love the Internet. Blogs and tweets and photos and endless streams of information. It didn’t just feel like a different way to experience life, it felt like the NEW way to experience life. And I dove in deep.
I’ve tweeted 38,000 times. I’ve blogged thousands of times. I’ve built platforms and conversations within the digital glow the Internet offers. The Internet in turn opened up a world of opportunities to me. I got my first book deal in large part because of my blog community. Comedian Jim Gaffigan endorsed my new book Do Over because we connected on Twitter. Some of my best opportunities and favorite relationships have started online.
But, in 15 years of non-stop online connection, I’ve learned something surprising.
The more time I spend online, the more I realize face-to-face interaction matters the most.
Skype is great.
Facetime is amazing.
YouTube is a window into worlds I might have otherwise missed.
But, when all is said and done, nothing beats 3D community.
Nothing beats being in the same space and breathing the same air. And I’m an introvert. I don’t write this casually or because I love to be around people all the time. I write this because it’s true.
So a few weeks ago, when I got ready to launch my new book, I thought, “I’ll go to bookstores! I’ll meet people. I’ll talk with people. I’ll hear their ideas and tell them a few of mine.” Only I discovered something when I tried to schedule some events at bookstores …there are fewer of them around.
This is not a surprise to you perhaps, but it is to me. There are fewer bookstores now than there were when I wrote my first book 5 years ago.
In the ease of the Internet, in the promise of instant, I looked away from bookstores for a minute and when I looked back some had disappeared. They were closed. They were gone.
We didn’t just lose a bookstore though, we lost a bit of magic. We lost a bit of wonder. We lost a safe haven where it’s still OK to dream big dreams. To walk down aisles and aisles of “what if?” Books are not collections of paper, they’re invitations to different worlds. And being in a bookstore is like getting a passport.
Best of all, it’s a curated experience. The person who is arranging the shelves at Powell’s Books in Portland loves books like you do. They’re surfacing amazing titles from an ocean of options. This happens at small stores and big stores around the country. I visited every Barnes & Noble in Manhattan this week and at each one, I met an employee who loved books. The best bookstore employees know they’re not just working a job, they’re part of a mission. They’re on the frontline of new ideas and new conversations.
I’ve been thinking a lot about bookstores because this week I released a new book. If you haven’t seen the bright yellow tidal wave I’ve unleashed upon the Internet, it’s called Do Over. It’s available in stores.
To everyone who bought a copy online, I thank you. I love the Internet. I don’t consider it an either/or conversation between bookstores and the Internet.
If you haven’t purchased one online I implore you to visit your local bookstore and buy a copy of Do Over today.
Buy a different book while you’re there, too. Get a magazine while you’re at it.
Bookstores matter to authors, but more than that, I think they matter to humans.
They offer something no Internet site can deliver, they offer space.
A room where 40 people or 4 people can get together and discuss an idea.
Long live the local bookstore.
What’s the local bookstore you go to most often?