Monday, December 20, 2004

b is for bookstore

for a time, I never understood bookstores (at the time, these to me were lifeless interchangeable national chains) when one could have an infinitely wider selection online at amazon, until I realized that today, a bookstore is not valuable for how many books it carries, but how few. (see also my epinions note: http://www.epinions.com/content_1459593348 )

editors are important to tell us what's important. Which is why record companies and tv networks will always have a job, even when content becomes essentially free. we need people to tell us what’s good.

when it comes to bookstores, a good one will tell you which few amongst the universe of millions are worth reading. and your favorite, will be the one that fits you, speaks to you. two have succeeded for me

thus, the best bookstores at doing that for me, is firstly the MIT press bookstore, a tiny bookstore across the street from the main campus bookstore, stocked to the brim with fascinating books related to all the knowledge MIT is interested in, from nanotech, to social networks, to typography, to urban design to poetry. the place is crammed with books that pique my geeky fancy.

recently, I rediscovered Kramer books in Dupont Circle in Washington DC. Aside from having a nice bar, live music and great desserts, this store reflects the social scientist in me. every book on display in there from hip snooty fiction like Chabon and Umberto Eco to pop intellectuals like Krugman, to general interest social science on topics like cultural social psychology, I’ve either read, want very much to read, and all I could bull shit about at length.

today I add a third for different reasons. Dewey’s Comics in Madison, NJ. A store I frequented a bit in high school about a decade ago, and liked especially because of how incredibly nice the owner was/is. in stark stark contrast to the jerk who owned the other local competitor Fat Moose. I tried to go back and now and then on visits home, and happening to be in Madison today, I stopped in. It’s been four years since my last visit (I know because I first went to their old location, which apparently they left 3.5 years ago). The owner was still there, and he still remembers me, though it’s been 9 years since I’ve been a regular customer. He even recalled seeing me in USA today. It felt like home.

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