Why I Still Go to Physical Bookstores


I recently had that unicorn of days: my husband had work.  My kids’ daycare was open.  And I didn’t have to work. 

Since this only happens one day a year, I practically ran myself ragged doing laundry, cleaning, organizing, and running errands.  One errand was to the bookstore – a physical, brick and mortar, walk-through-the-shelves-and-touch-the-books, bookstore.

I have always loved reading.

Naturally, that means I have always loved bookstores and libraries.  I was the kid checking out 12 books each week during summer, and the kid who spent her allowance on books (when I wasn’t saving up for a specific Beanie Baby).  When my brother was having his first child, I probably spent $50 on books because I couldn’t bear my nephew entering the world without his bookshelf including Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Oh The Places You’ll Go, and oh my gosh The Pokie Little Puppy!!!!!!!!!

But despite my adoration of books and bookstores, I don’t even remember the last time I went to one.  Between us, my husband and I have 10 nieces and nephews.  That means a lot of birthday gifts, and that means we love Amazon Prime.  My children have a lot of books, and a book is always included as part of Christmas and birthdays, but for at least the last year or so that’s been a book I ordered from Amazon.

During my errands that day, I was speed walking and breezing through stores as fast as I could go.  But when I got to Barnes & Noble it was like time slowed down.  Even though I was only looking for two books – one for Advent and one for my daughter’s “something to read” gift – I went down every aisle in the children’s section.  I picked up books I remember from childhood and looked at the new illustrations.  I looked at every single Little Golden Book in stock because I love the illustration style.  I picked up books with pretty covers and flipped through the story, looking at illustrations, reading the text, and deciding that “this book HAS to come live with us”…five times.

I am back in love with bookstores 100%.

When you shop for books online, you don’t get the chance to look at the illustrations or read the story.  You don’t get to gauge whether the lyrics in Silent Night are the ones you grew up with or revised ones; you don’t get to decide that Herr Drosselmeyer is less scary in one interpretation of The Nutcracker than another one.  What you get online is over 100,000 options and maybe a second picture that shows you how big the book is in comparison to an adult.  Not particularly helpful.

So if you want to buy a book for a gift this year, but don’t know which book…go to the bookstore.  Walk up and down the aisles, flip through the pages, and maybe pick up a book for yourself while you’re at it.