Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Used Bookstores

To my long list of pipe dreams, I should add "own a used bookstore," an inkling that truly only strikes me when I walk into one or watch You've Got Mail. The Shop Around the Corner isn't a used bookstore; it's a small shop for new children's books, but they do seem to have a shelf of old copies of beloved books, and the store has all the quaintness I imagine used bookstores to have. Maybe Meg Ryan helps that.

I think this quaintness is the first thing that draws me into used bookstores. I find old things to be charming, I find small personal shops to be charming, and I think old, worn books tend to be sweet or strange or beautiful. I like that they tend to hide unfamiliar names, lists, and markings in the covers and margins. I like books that have been owned, maybe loved, by other people, and that have been, for whatever reason, left behind or given up or passed along, to be purchased by wanderers who know nothing of their history but will gladly give them a new home and new use.

I also like the idea that strange finds may exist in these stores. I like thinking that perhaps I will wander into some dusty corner of a dusty bookshop, pick up a dusty, misfiled, leather-bound volume with a title that is strange to me, pay five dollars to take it home and find that it is the answer to the Voynich manuscript or the door to Narnia. Or maybe it'll just be a really, really good book.


K Throbbs said...

How bizarre. I always tell people that when my programming career falls on it's face, I'm going to have a small coffee shop "slash" used bookstore in some quiet little town. And live in an old Victorian house. And forget what stress is.

Rae Botsford said...

Ha. That sounds wonderful. "I always thought that I would love to live by the sea, to travel the world alone and live more simply." I like that that's a "when," not an "if."

K Throbbs said...

It's just a matter of time before this whole computer fad is over. Or computers learn to program themselves. Either way I'm obsolete. I guess used books will be too. But caffeine is irreplaceable.

Rae Botsford said...

I think people will want used books for a long, long, long time. Physical books still hold charm enough that e-readers won't take over. And maybe you'll create a program to help people find something that fits what they're looking for - be it a boat story that ends happily and doesn't have too much description, or an iced coffee drink that isn't too sweet or too bitter and isn't seasonal.

I have dreamed of these programs existing, but nobody wants to break down the genomes of coffee shop items or books, apparently.

K Throbbs said...

A lot of the algorithms created for the Netflix challenge can be used for anything, not just movies. You need a lot of data to train them though. I think they should start applying it to everything.

I was actually thinking the other day that facebook "likes" would be a good data set. They sort of already do it with the "people that like x also like Y" but that's very primitive compared to anything netflix has