Old and New

Sign outside Elliott Bay Book Co.

A new bookstore just opened near where I live. Elliott Bay Book Co. (an independent bookstore that has been in Seattle since the early 70s) reopened today in their new Capitol Hill location. This is reason to celebrate. Neighborhood independent bookstores over the past few years have disappeared rapidly. Rather than closing its doors, EBBC decided to relocate to a more accessible neighborhood and trust that there were many of us who still loved to browse books the old fashioned way. I happen to be one of those people and was thrilled to check out its new space today. The official opening celebration takes place tomorrow.

I’ve resisted writing about the ipad over the past couple of weeks as it’s received enough press. However, as I lingered in the stacks of this new bookstore, I couldn’t help think about the conflict between tradition and innovation. Over spring break I spent some time with the ipad at  The University Bookstore (another independent bookstore) and have to admit that I was impressed and it surpassed my expectations. I see plenty of potential for its use as a classroom tool (it really is much more than an oversized ipod touch). Nonetheless, I’m going to hold off and wait. But, as impressive as the device was, there were several things that it couldn’t do.

1) Browsing books on shelves – it will be a sad day when we won’t be able to do this (thanks to online bookstores and e-readers, physical bookstores are becoming scarce)

2) Beautifully illustrated children’s books don’t come to life on the ipad (its restricted screen size just doesn’t cut it) – the potential for interactivity is pretty cool, but flipping through the rich images of a great picture book cannot be replaced.

3) Same thing with large format art and design books

20 years from now, will the kids I teach today care about how they read to their kids? Will it matter? Will they even read to their kids? I certainly hope so. I remember spending hours when I ws in high school browsing through bins of vinyl records (album art just isn’t the same on an iphone). In the few record stores that remain, you don’t see too many kids doing that anymore.

Anyway, I’m thrilled to have a bookstore open. Even if amazon is cheaper or more convenient, some things might be worth paying a little extra for.

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