Damned If You Do

When you look over your history of buying books, how do you feel? You should feel like hell. If you’ve bought even one book from an online seller, well, you blew it — A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books might still be open if it weren’t for that book. We’re not kidding. Everybody is guilty. Everybody sucks. Is it going to take every last bookstore in the city closing before people change their behavior? Yes, it will. And yet! How many times have you gone to a brick-and-mortar neighborhood treasure and quietly seethed over not receiving 30 to 40 percent off a new hardcover? And how many times have you made a special trip for a book that’s out of stock? We recently went to a store and found only one David Mitchell book. Personally, we believe bookstores should have at least five copies of every David Mitchell book — 25 David Mitchell books, always, at every store. We believe the same about dozens of different authors. We should never own a bookstore, obviously. Perhaps we could handle an online bookstore. The whole thing breaks our heart. How do you make sense of it all, as a responsible yet realistic book-buyer? You attend a special Booksmith celebration and community dialogue, in which the owners break down their business, debate the tricky future, and celebrate five years as the new proprietors. And before you leave, you buy a book. We'd start with Cloud Atlas.
Mon., March 26, 7 p.m., 2012

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