Things were recently looking pretty bleak for my quixotic project, saving books from e-xtinction. During the grand Denver confab known as The AWP, I sat across an early breakfast of hash-browns and oeufs over-easy with my favorite editor Dawn Marano. She, too, lamented the advent of you-know-whats and the possible future disappearance of Books. And for a moment, I felt cheered! An ally! But then she said she’d already been through her stages of grief, and now that she’s made it all the way to acceptance, she’s bought the e-reader whose name starts with a K. To my ears that K thing always sounds like the little twigs you set fire to just before the logs really catch, and that little piece of news started a little conflagration in my own brain. I guess you’d call it shock. Will I ever get past denial? Will I ever plunk down the plastic and download my own book on to a gadget? (I hope to god my publisher makes an e-version of my own book available when it comes out next March, cause god knows that’s where the future of the money is).
So I was feeling pretty down, until I walked into the Hall of Books, otherwise known as the Book Fair. About 5 miles long and 3 miles wide, filled with nothing but tables full of hopeful, bedraggled graduate students, editors and about a million writers who all read, write and buy books. Books! Made of paper! It was glorious. I spent about a day and a half in there, reading book covers, buying books, ordering journals, eating free chocolates, snapping up tchotchkes, thinking up clever banter, getting books signed by my heroes like Phillip Lopate and new friends like Sherrie Flick. And thinking to myself: anyone who thinks that books are about to vanish ought to hang out here. As long as there are writers, there will be people who buy books. Thousands of pounds of them, by the looks of it. People were hauling those things out of the hall like the building was on fire. And as long as there are people who buy books, well, there you are.
It’s not every day you find a to-do like the AWP Book Fair. But the next best thing is right there in your own neck of the woods. Stay off the “Buy With 1-Click” Button for once, stroll into your nearest locally-owned bookseller, and ask the helpful people for a book you might like. Have a conversation, judge a few books by their beautiful, real covers, breathe the papery air. Check out your fellow book browsers. That feeling you get? That sense of camaraderie, that together you’re doing something vital in the real world? Face to face with each other and the books? That’s the Slow Book feeling, my friend. Before you snap out of it, there’s only one thing to do, which is follow the Slow Book Movement’s Rule #3: To save, and savor, the Book, BUY ONE.