FOULDS: Booking a future with ink-and-paper blood brothers

The background  colour is the same, the very hue — blue — that defines the mood of the industry of the business that once called this building home.

What was once Blockbuster Video in Sahali is now Bookland Warehouse as the printed-word dealer sets up books where DVDs once lived in an attempt to determine if, in this age of downloads and uploads, this temporary outlet becomes business by the book — if enough people buy a book.

When Blockbuster closed as part of the death of the Canadian portion of the once-mighty chain, it marked a seismic shift in the movie-rental habits of Kamloopsians, a shift that continued with the closure shortly thereafter of nearby Rogers Video.

The chain collapse has left the city with two independent video stores with two locations each, both of which soldier on in the face of Netflix, cable and bit torrent services that multiply by the day.

Blockbuster’s building sat empty for some time, its blue awnings a sad reminder of healthier (and happier) days gone by.

Sure, turning on the Wii or ordering a flick via your TV for a few bucks is easier.

But, it will never replace the satisfying experience of taking the family to a bricks-and-mortar store and setting loose the kids to pick out a couple of movies while you try to find that perfect sleeper among the hundreds of boxes staring out at you,

DVD boxes on movie-store shelves are the celluloid sister to album art in the days before CDs and iTunes.

There were rumours that the Blockbuster building at the corner of Notre Dame Drive and Columbia Street would be home to a Browns Socialhouse restaurant and an adjacent sushi eatery.

Apparently, trendy dining gave way to bestsellers in the leasing game — and we definitely need more of the latter in Kamloops.

To see a bookstore open in an empty building in 2012 is to receive a jolt of hope that maybe, just maybe, there remains room in this digital age for the traditional.

Books, unlike their electronic companions that exist in hard drives and appear as cold, impersonal text on finite screens, breathe life into a room, lined as they are, like blood brothers, along shelves of the living rooms of the well-read.

Of course, ebooks are here to stay and will only continue to carve out a larger share of sales.

The National Book Count in January found that 10 per cent of all English-language books sold in Canada are ebooks.

They are generally cheaper and their electronic format allows one to “carry” dozens and dozens of tomes on a device not much larger than a cellphone — or on a cellphone.

Still, there remains something special about holding a book, feeling its sheets, revelling in the disparate aromas of pages hot off the press or unopened for years.

Novelist Jonathan Franzen, author of blockbuster bestsellers The Corrections and Freedom, holds firmly to the bound book and makes his disdain for ebooks clear.

“Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do,” Franzen said at a gathering in Colombia this year.

“When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf, it still says the same thing, that’s reassuring.

“I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience.”

There may come a day when a Kindle or some other e-reader lands in my lap and I become a digital convert.

But, I still cannot envision a day ending without the sound of pages turning, illuminated not by a battery-operated device, but by a bedside lamp focused on ink and paper.

Christopher Foulds is editor of Kamloops This Week. His email address is here. His blogs can be found here and here. Follow him on Twitter here.






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