internet (sic.) 2, reality 1. And we’re all going to heck in a handbasket

There is someone to greet you on every floor!
This Internet business is all well and good, but when it begins to infringe on reality, you have to start asking questions–hard questions.  I was riding my bike along W. Mcmicken the other Saturday, and thought I’d stop in at an area gem, Brengleman’s Bookstore–four stories of used books, every surface converted to shelving, complete with comfortable couches and watched over in its remotest alcoves by these freaky, elegantly-dressed mannequins.  Mr. Brengleman held court in the front room, surrounded by every conceivable type of coffee-making device.  He was open only on weekends from noon to about five.  I knocked on the door.  Mr. Brengleman stuck out his head and informed me that he is no longer open to walk-in traffic, but is instead selling solely on the Internet.  As retribution, I henceforth swear off capitalizing the word internet.  From the gospel according to Roy Blount Jr. via the Author’s Guild:  “. . . We don’t want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let’s mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that’s just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!”   
While listening on the wireless to our friend Jake Speed on Garrison Keillor’s holiday broadcast of Prairie Home Companion from Music Hall, Keillor described Over the Rhine as an old world-style neighborhood bustling with cafes and bookstores.  This left us scratching our heads.  True, Keillor is prone to off-the-cuff fictionalizations but let’s face it: only your patronage can make his pipe-dream a reality.  I can’t believe I’m blogging this, but I’m in a, as Norm is fond of saying, “high dudgeon”.  Ok.  Here it is.  Step away from the computer.  That’s right.  Just stand right up and walk out the door.  Take a walk to a local watering hole before it’s too late.  Take your laptop, if you have to but DO IT!  DO IT NOW!!!!!  And for Pete’s sake, buy something while you’re at it.  Thank you and God Bless America.  -Ed Scripsi
 
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Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. Low or high dudgeon, I agree. OTR to my knowledge hasn’t had a bookstore in decades unless you count Caldi’s and it is closed now. The closest is Ohio Book Store which should be saved by any means at hand and not just for books but for book binding and conservation and because they are great people.

  2. Iris Book Cafe opened up the street last year at 1331 Main.

  3. While I also wish there were more bookstores around, I fear they began to die a long time ago, and it wasn’t the internet that killed them. Book readership has been in sharp decline since the early 1980s (when the internet was just a twinkle in Al Gore’s eye) and a sinking tide runs all boats aground.

    Furthermore, I’m no Business Historian, but I think B&N, Walmart, and the rest of the Big Box gang pretty much had the neighborhood book store finished off, although I will admit that Amazon probably delivered the coup de grace.

    These days, though, I imagine that the internet saves more book stores than it kills. Brengleman’s, for example.

  4. I’ll be sure to visit Iris Book Cafe’s online seller ID on eBay. Just kidding… I’m totally there. Norm has a good point… there are tons of absolutely incredible indie book stores in SF that are able to pay the high rents by selling online but also offer a great place to spend an afternoon, as long as you don’t mind the proprietor, hopped up on espresso, busily programming java while you browse . . . which might be another way they’re supplementing their income. But many an independent bookstore is going out of business out there, too. Brengleman’s btw, does offer browsing at a local antique mall… wish I could remember which.


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