Earlier this year, local and chain bookstores alike began disappearing from the land of South Florida. In my hometown, for example, a tasteful Barnes and Noble in the bustling downtown area was replaced by a trendy L.A Fitness. The city of Miami has especially seen its fair share of magic acts, further contributing to the pandemic that encompasses a severe lack of physical access to literature. With vast amounts of bookstores going out of business, hard copies of books are slightly more inconvenient to obtain, depending upon where you live. What used to be a five-minute drive is now a twenty-minute one. So where do fellow book readers turn to retrieve their fiction? To digital distribution.
Devices such as Kindles, Nooks, and various phone applications have grown to such proportions that they act as both major causes and effects of the disappearance of bookstores. After all, technology is constantly attached to the average consumer, whether it dwells in their pockets or purses. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, exactly; cell phones and handheld devices are a part of the global technological revolution and therefore contain both pros and cons.When it comes to the literary world, however, the cons outweigh the pros. With the ability to buy a book with a simple click of a button, less people experience the social enlightenment of venturing inside an actual bookstore with tangible novels. People who read novels online cannot even try to imagine the poignant tang of fresh paper weaving between lined shelves; they cannot leaf through a book of their choosing and appreciate the format in which it was printed. They cannot know what it is to feel the weight of a novel pressed into their hands, nor can they experience the brush of a book’s spine skimming against the folds of their palms. Reading digitally has essentially stripped the population of the many cultural and human aspects of reading physically. Reading with a real book in hand makes one feel… alive.
Such vast digital distribution also leads to a deterioration in literary knowledge. No longer will you see Huckleberry Finn, 1984, or Moby Dick sitting eagerly on a shelf. There are no classics resting on the visible shelves of the digital world to remind you of the their existences. In actuality, instead of displaying the classic books writers and readers learn from, the front pages of digital distributors will display superficial YA novels. And why is this? Because these types of books are easy. Just like reading a novel on the go with a tablet, reading new, trendy novels are the next best thing. So, after our bookstores disappear, will the classics vanish as well? That is up to this generation to decide.
I’m sure we all agree that the literature we love must be saved and secured. We must be sure that it stays within physical reach for future generations. Leave a comment below to contribute to the conversation. I believe it is an interesting topic to talk about, and I am open-minded to any opinions.