I got in late last night from tour. In two days we drove from Challis, Idaho to Austin, Texas. I feel more animal than man, but I will try my best to write regardless. While on tour I immersed myself in books and records, as a partying a great deal isn’t really an option anymore. While I was in Taos, New Mexico, I stopped At Broadsky Bookshop, a small independent bookstore that sells mostly used books. Usually when I go shopping for books I have a good idea what I am looking for. However, on tour I finished one of my books much faster than I thought I would. It was great to talk to someone that had read a lot, that wasn’t just working for a paycheck, but that seemed to have a general love of reading. I had only about 30 minutes before I had to get to the van for departure, and with a short explanation on the kind of things I like to read I was soon headed out the door with two great books. (In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.)
I couldn’t help but wonder what we lose for the sake of convenience. A book store like this wasn’t going to have the large selection of a chain store, or the limitless selection of going to Amazon. However, I ended up with two things that I liked that I might not have found on my own. The store also had what seemed like a sizable selection of books that were of regional interest. It seemed like it was part of the community instead of something invading it.
Look, I am as guilty as anyone for often choosing convenience over community. There are also times when we may want something obscure that can’t be found at the shop down the street. However, I understand that in a capitalist society we vote with our dollar. When we go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble over the local bookshop, we are voting for the former over the latter. There are all kinds of economic cultural arguments that one could make on why it is more important to vote with our money for the homegrown store over the corporate giant.
Those would be valid arguments, but another argument can be made as well; A well versed local merchant might expand our reach, might open us up to new ideas, in a way that might not happen otherwise. Often when I look for something I am looking to get something guaranteed to satisfy, as money is tight. If I don’t know what I am looking for I might ask a friend whose opinion I trust, but that can be limiting in its own way, as friends by nature often run in similar circles. Whereas someone that sells books, or any kind of art, because it is there passion, might be able to provide a window into a completely new world for us. I now know things that I otherwise wouldn’t if I had not walked into that store on that day.
I’m not here to say that one experience is completely better than the other. There are benefits to having more options. But we also risk losing something if we always put convenience first. As well as sending money outside of our communities and possibly diminishing places that can serve as a hub for knowledge, we risk some possibility for chance, for new ideas to enter into our lives by accident. I think in its own way there is a kind of magic in that.
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