As a reader . . .
There is nothing as convenient as ordering the book you want from an online bookstore. But it only works if you know the particular title (or author) you’re looking for. When you think about it, that’s pretty limiting. I should know. I’m a book addict. I read at least three books a week, if not more, depending on length or complexity. An online bookstore cannot introduce me to new titles or new authors in a way that makes sense. That’s because it uses algorithms along the lines of “if you liked this author/title, you’ll want to try that one.” The only problem is the algorithm isn’t human. It doesn’t know nuances—like subgenre or that I am not a fan of self-published books (been disappointed too often) or that post-apocalyptic fantasies are not my cup of tea. McIntyre’s Books does know these things.
I’ve been introduced to more new and exciting authors while browsing through McIntyre’s than I ever encountered online.
Independent bookstores like McIntyre’s remind me of the old-fashioned library card catalog, the one where you’re looking for something on a particular topic and, while thumbing through the physical cards, discover a book or books that are quite similar and therefore worth checking into—or checking out. I’ve been introduced to more new and exciting authors while browsing through McIntyre’s than I ever encountered online. Timothy Hallinan, Christopher Brookmyre, Susan Hill, Adrian McKinty, Anna Burns, Stuart MacBride, and many more.
There’s been a lot of talk about the disappearance of the printed book, but lately, there is more talk about the fact that it’s easier and more pleasant to thumb through the pages of a printed book than to swipe a screen. Yes, e-readers have their place—on planes, trains, and automobiles, for example—but when you reach page 213 of the story and the character Sophie Landrieu is mentioned and you know you’ve read the name earlier but can’t remember exactly who she is, it’s oh so much easier to flip back through the pages of a printed book to find her.
An online bookstore doesn’t do book launches or readings where you can meet prospective readers and sign actual printed books. You can only do that in a physical bookstore. Most of those are indies. Book launches are the only way virtual unknowns like me can sell books to people who don’t know me from a grain of sand on the beach. Once, while doing a book signing for my second novel, Jewelry from a Grave, I encountered a ten-year-old girl who was thrilled to “meet the author.” She asked me how many pages I had written and seemed to be amazed that it was such a large number. After I signed a copy of the book for her (to read when she got a bit older, her mother and I agreed), she told me she was going to write a book, too. I hope she does, and I hope that independent bookstores will still be around when she’s ready for her first book launch.
CAROLINE TAYLOR is the author of four mystery novels—What Are Friends For?, Jewelry from a Grave, Loose Ends, and The Typist—and a collection of short stories, Enough: Thirty Stories of Fielding Life’s Little Curve Balls. A longtime resident of Washington, D.C., Caroline now lives in North Carolina. Read more of her numerous short stories and essays featured on her website at www.carolinestories.com.