I don't know if it's a sign
of the end of civilization or a last gasp of defense
against the coming dark ages: Starbucks
is going into the bookselling
business. And not only
that, possibly the publishing business.
I can't quite figure out why this
is disturbing to me. After all, anything that gets books
into people's hands nowadays is a good thing. If
Starbucks is weighing in on the side of reading and
further weighing in on the side of the book as the killer
app for reading, I should be applauding, not fretting in
vague disquiet. My original antipathy toward Starbucks
was engendered by their buying the Coffee Connection and
their insistence on "one roast fits all" for the coffee.
Then there's the "drive out the small local coffee shops"
strategy. They seem less successful at that than they
once did. Now they even brag that they create the
audience for good coffee thus benefitting the small
independent local coffee shops. But why books?
Can you have a "one roast fits all"
philosophy of bookselling? What kind of books do middle
schoolers who drink $$$ frozen coffee drinks read? When I
was their age (who thought I'd ever start a sentence like
that), I bought coffee for 25 cents at the local bakery
and got my books from the library. Possibly not all
Starbucks are filled with middle schoolers. That may be a
local phenomenon. After all, I can't believe middle
schoolers are buying all those jazz CDs they sell either.
How will Starbucks publishing and
selling books affect independent bookstores? Clueless
about any answers to that, I took off to meet Nancy at
the bus station for an expedition to Waltham -- not the
Waltham of my childhood nor even young adulthood (I
worked in the financial aid office at Brandeis) but the
Waltham of destination dining and two, count them two,
bookstores on Moody Street.
Alas, the service at New Mother
India has become non-existent. With the exception of our
Christmas Eve visit when we were the only people in the
place for enough time that they waited on us promptly the
last few visits have been strange. Very strange. I
thought we would faint from hunger before they took our
orders. The delay between placing the order and receiving
the food was even longer. It kind of took the shine off
New Mother India as destination dining.
No problem with the destination
bookstores though. I donated 11 books to the TeenLEEP
guys at More
than Words and between them
and the boy entrepreneurs at Back
Pages I only bought 4. At
More than Words I picked up a 1959 field guide to trees
of India. The illustrations are so good and the whole
tone of the book so offbeat that I couldn't leave it in
the store. I browsed it a long time -- they have a nice
atmosphere for browsing -- and basically couldn't go home
At Back Pages, I made sure to thank
Alex for recommending In Patagonia for Lizzy who
wants to travel after high school. Chatwin proved to be
just the thing. I came out of there with 1421: The
Year China Discovered America, which interested me
mainly because it was heavily discounted and I'd just
finished When China Ruled the Seas : The Treasure
Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433 by Louise
Levathes, Playback: From the Victrola to Mp3, 100
Years of Music, Machines, and Money by Mark Coleman
(a surprisingly engaging history of recorded music), and
Classic New England Stories : True Tales and Tall
Tales of Character and Culture by Jake Elwell
(Editor). Of course I haven't finished Theatre of
Fish or Down the Bay yet so these latest
acquisitions go into the "to be read" pushdown stack.
Well maybe not really a pushdown stack any more since I
seem to prioritize the actual reading of the books by
whether or not boats are involved.
I guess that vague disquiet about
Starbucks taking over, oops I meant taking up, the
bookselling business got me charged up to singlehandedly
save civilization as we know it at independent
bookstores. Gotta go study my field guide to trees of