Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Lost Books

One aspect of Budapest that surprised me and warmed me up was the number of bookstores throughout the city. San Francisco, like any American city i suppose, has been decimated over the past decade as one bookstore after another succumbed to online or megastore competition. Now the megastores are falling bankrupt and all we're left with is Amazon and a very very small handful of surviving bookstores. I am extremely fortunate to live by the venerable City Lights Bookstore, but a person would have to go across town to find anything else -- Green Apple in The Richmond District or perhaps Bird & Beckett Books in Glen Park. When I came to San Francisco in the early 1990s the reading landscape was rich with new and used bookshops that were not only places to purchase items, but also community hotspots where events took place and people could meet authors and one another. Today, cafes are full of silent working nomads fixated on their own glowing screens, privately "interacting" and publicly disappearing into the digital miasma. Budapest is blessed to be behind the curve on this one. It's likely an unsung delight there, but to this American's eyes it is a wonderful reminder of the infinity universe inside a good book and the lost pleasures of a proper bookshop that no online website will ever replicate.

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