Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Romancing the book

This is an easy business to romanticize. After all, we deal in books, and what are books but the revelation of men's souls? It is easy to get wrapped up in the romanticism, the joy of placing the right book to the right reader, the bright colors of the dust wrappers, the smell of the paper...

Yes, it is easy to do, and I fall victim to it all too often. Just the other day, I went to Davis-Kidd on my day off. I do this fairly often, primarily to see what other people are reading and to steal er... learn merchandising techniques. I look at how they display books, how they cross sell, cetera. After all, if they can make money on the pitiful margins new books bring, they must know something, right?

So I am there, and the store is packed. People are moving about, and the lighting is just right, and the colors on the jackets are everywhere, and it sinks in to me that I am surrounded by the collective wisdom and thoughts of thousands of men and women, that all that I like about the world was around me, that I liked the customers there more because they were readers, that joy that I got seeing children running around the kids books section carrying books, asking parents to buy them... it was a truly joyful thing. I felt truly at peace (something very rare for me, what with ADD raging and all) and realised, not for the first time, that the way I feel surrounded by books is the way someone better than me would feel in church.

I have always loved books, and no doubt, the books have loved me back. They have fed me and mine for several years now, and I want nothing more than to be a bookseller for the rest of my life. I feel true joy when someone comes in raving about the book I recomended them, or how much their mom liked the book I sold her. Perhaps my best memory is of the day I was in Brother Juniper's and I overheard the conversation at the table behind me. It was a young couple, and he was raving about the coolest book he had ever bought, and how it really changed his life, and who would have thought something written so long ago would still be valid, and so on. Then I turned and saw the book he had was a Hardback of Emerson's Essays that I had hand sold it to him about a week before.

I resisted the urge to go over and say hello, or even to wave after getting their attention. I just smiled, finished my omelet, and left, thinking what a truly lucky man I am, and what a good thing it was I don't romanticize the book business.

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