For the past two years I have had a monthly Sunday meandering date with my super-smart, all-around-amazing-person friend, Mary Whitten. Each month we pick a new San Francisco neighborhood to explore, always starting at the local neighborhood bookstore, then, when we are satiated, we wander the streets, ending at a café for a latte or a cup of tea. We are incredibly lucky here in San Francisco to still have over 30 small, independent bookstores, at a time when many people are predicting the imminent replacement of books by ebooks.
Mary and I start at a bookstore because we both love books—not only reading and discussing them—but we love the solid, tactile weight of holding them in our hands, love the slick feel of the cover, full of promise and appeal, love the shoosh-shoosh sound of turning the page, the sharp smell of ink on paper. The wonderfully sensual experience of it all.
Last Sunday we spent our usual hour grazing the shelves at Books Inc on Chestnut Street; young adult, middle grade, new adult fiction, classics, pulling out books we have loved, books we’re curious about, books we found disappointing, books we want each other to read so we can really discuss them. We almost always end up talking each other into buying something we’ve recently read and loved. Or a classic we somehow missed. I am about to embark on Jane Eyre at Mary’s urging. And we just realized that neither of us had ever read Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s The Egypt Game; we vowed to do so before our next walk.
Don’t get me wrong; ebooks are an amazing development in the realm of written words; I think of them in the same way I think of recycled corn to-go cups—they are a good thing, they do the job of holding tea, but I still love drinking my Earl Grey from a beautiful porcelain cup. One does not, and I truly believe will never, replace the other.