To read a book is to partake of a universe unknown.
Of course, you might have heard of said universe. You might have a picture of it, based on a fancy blurb. An excited tweet. Your favourite critic’s latest jibe.
But to actually sit down with the printed word flowing in front of your eye, is to live somebody else’s mind. It is not mere verbiage on a hunk of paper, not the three hours your eyes might take to scan it. It is most certainly not the ten or so pounds (Ten whole pounds! Gasp!) that you have exchanged for it.
To read is a ritual. An act of change, no matter how inconsequential. And all rituals must have a before, an after, and an in-between.
This in-between-ness is where your local bookshop plods in happily and sets up shop.
A tiny buzzer sounds as you cross the threshold of Victoria Park Books, subtly alerting its owner to your presence. It is muted, unintrusive. The door shuts behind you, and you take in the spill of light from the backyard, battered little child-sized beanbags on the warm wood floor, and the books.
Jo Guia, owner, will peer over her computer and gently ask you if you need any help. She knows children better than most, their desire for an original familiarity. Your child might be reading Maisie, but Jo will deftly take out a volume by someone you haven’t heard of yet. You should know without a doubt that your child will love it.
“Good on you for bringing them up right,” she says, modestly. “Not enough children read anymore.” To be on the safe side, she organizes book readings for infants and toddlers too.
The store is designed for children more than their parents, despite who’s holding the purse strings. The books are shelved in a chronological flow, with picture books low on the ground and teen fiction high above, out of the grasp of curious fingers with too-tender minds. One solitary wall in a corner houses Adult Fiction, keeping parents occupied. Harvey the dog whimpers plaintively at you if denied a pat on the head.
Every single element of this place says it is about you and what you are going to read, paying silent tribute to the ritual path you have just begun to tread.
This, is the core difference between Amazon and your local bookshop.
Amazon pays homage to the clean, jingling Cash Machine In The Sky, and good devout priests they are too. Books are their currency—as against Victoria Park Bookstore, saying loud and proud, that Books are My Bag. Books are you and me and the entire world bound by the genius of one mind reaching out to the fertile grounds of another, and books can be our everything.
But sometimes, everything isn’t enough.
The Wardrobe only took us to Narnia.
Join the Books Are My Bag Campaign, and go buy something from your local bookstore. It’s worth the price.