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Letters from Readers

Greetings, John,

We seem to have dropped off of your emailing list, and would like to be reinstated.  Our own shop – Between the Lines –  is currently mothballed, although our interest and commitment to bookdealing has not diminished:  whether or not a bookdealer is presently active, "once a bookdealer, always a bookdealer".  It's more than a profession; it's a state of mind.

As our society transitions from qualitative to quantitative transmission the life of the mind is more challenging.  Our city, Bloomington, Indiana, is the home of Indiana University (one of the original Big Ten) whose faculty, over the years, has amassed 8 Nobel Prizes.  And yet it struggles to support bookshops, let alone secondhand bookshops.  A case might be proposed that knowledge and learning has simply transitioned to digital transmission, and that nothing is lost in this transmission. But those of us in the trade know better: the loss of AB Bookman's Weekly as the trade's premier periodical was a blow that the trade has never recovered from.  Fine Books & Collections is a noteworthy enterprise, but it comes close to commodifying book collecting, paying close attention to the bestseller lists in the authors it showcases, and $$$ has never been what bookdealing is all about – selling books has never been the way to fame and fortune, and never will be.

In Bloomington a new bookstore has recently opened, organized along the lines of a Barnes & Noble megastore.  But "Bookstore" isn't even in its name, and the owner has opened a "bookstore" that appears to have only one wall of books (and bestsellers at that), and the rest of the space is devoted to gifts and food.

This appears to be the future that bookdealing is heading into. Facing diminished economic prospects perhaps bookdealing could evolve back to its beginnings, with a current Ye Olde Cheddarshire Cheese, where – like the celebrated Dr. Johnson – coffee drinkers could converse on the burning issues of the day as Johnson discoursed convivially with the leading minds of HIS day) but, in the distractions of a diversity-obsessed society, this appears unlikely.

Arthur & Danna Jackson (Between the Lines Books)