I live in Montgomery County, MD. When I was a kid, there was a Crown Books just up the street. It was small, but I could walk to it and throw my allowance and odd-jobs money at new books. Then Crown went out of business.

Then there was Bonifant Books, a large used-book store a bus ride away. I expanded my collection considerably using that place. And then they went out of business too, while I was off at college. The same went for all used-book stores in my area save one. (At least, those which carry stuff I’m interested in, which is mainly SF&F.)

While I was in college, downtown Silver Spring got built up. It’s pretty much the only thing the county government has had a genuinely good idea about since, well, ever. (I don’t have a high opinion of them, but that’s a separate topic.) It had a dinky mall without a bookstore, but the area around it got beautified and expanded, with a better movie theater, more parking, great restaraunts . . . and a Borders! Their cafe was my favorite place to go work. And then, of course, they closed down.

So, basically, from where I live, I have to drive half an hour to get to a decent bookstore. I live in a major metropolitan area, and I have to drive half an hour to browse shelves. I have a choice between three Barnes & Nobles and a Books-A-Million. Go figure, the one that’s easiest for me to get to is the B&N in Virginia.

Of course, said store is at Tysons Corner, which I pass by semi-frequently to go to meetings with Chesterton Press or visit friends. It also has a Lego Store. (Granted, the Books-A-Million is at Arundel Mills, which also has a Lego Store, but I almost never drive up there anymore.) The problem, of course, is that since I usually only go there on trips with other things to do, I rarely stop in at Barnes & Noble and usually I’m in a hurry anyway.

This last Saturday, I had a chance to actually browse while waiting for someone. I’d literally forgotten how much fun it can be to just go through the shelves and see what catches my eye, pick it up, and try to decide if it’s something I might be interested in. I found a bunch. Probably more than I can afford (not just financially, but in terms of time as well), but I took down a lot of titles to look at later.

It was nice to just be able to pick up a real, physical book. Something I can hold, flip through — and yes, smell. I like ebooks. They’re cheaper and more convenient for me, particularly since I’m in front of the computer all the time and am one of the lucky people who never gets eyestrain or other ill effects from staring at a screen all day. (Actually, my energy-efficient lightbulb lighting my workspace is the only thing that gives me eyestrain. I need a different lighting method. Probably LED or full-spectrum.)  But there’s something about the feel of a book in your hand that just can’t get replicated by any other method. It’s a tactile experience that, while not vital, still adds something.

Plus, considering my preferred ereader is actually my laptop, it means that a dead-tree book edition doesn’t come with email and Facebook popups. Unplugging is necessary from time to time.

I did wind up buying one book: Graceling, by Kristen Cashore. I can’t remember the last time a book swept me up while still in the bookstore. I read the whole first chapter there, and had to stop myself from reading more. It was an excellent price for a trade paperback (even considering that mass-market YA novels are usually priced slightly cheaper), so I decided to splurge even though my reading list is already full.

The thing that grabbed me wasn’t the action sequence or the magic system, though both were interesting; it was the introspective young girl, gifted with a supernatural talent for violence, and how she viewed the world. That first chapter painted a picture of a young girl with a talent that made people afraid of her, that trapped her in a life she didn’t want, but who still tries to do as much good with her abilities as she possibly can.

I hope to have time to finish it and write up a review this week. In the meantime, I have a book to write, manuscripts to evaluate, marketing releases to craft, a workshop to teach, and a Lego display to prepare for the National Air & Space Museum next month.

Probably a good thing I don’t have a bookstore to browse in all the time.


Not really.