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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stuff on Paper and Stuff in the Air

Can a smoker smell books? Paul's humor at work.
Pretty bottles!

Ah, yes, the smell of books! Real books! How many times have I heard people exclaim over it as they walk through my bookshop door? So isn’t my friend and fellow bookseller Paul Stebleton of Landmark Books in Traverse City clever for having bottled the scent? And that isn’t all he’s done: the labels and seals on the bottles feature more of Paul’s genius, as does the display in which the attractive bottles sit. Paul has generously given me an opportunity to sell “Scent of Book” at Dog Ears Books in Northport. It’s yet another demonstration of how booksellers with open shops generally treat each other as colleagues rather than competitors.

One book recently added to my “Books Read 2014” list came as a gift from my son’s wife. The Tyranny of E-Mail was published back in 2005, so it isn’t up-to-the-minute in terms of communication technology, but it was interesting, and I’m thinking it wouldn’t take a lot of editing to update the book, changing the title, of course, to The Tyranny of Texting. Freeman’s concerns about the number of hours modern Western humans spend checking-e-mail pale in the light of today’s “smart” phones and mobile “apps,” which not only have the ability to “tyrannize” users (who seldom consider themselves as victims in this arena) 24 hours a day but to track user movement in physical space, too, around the clock.

About eight years ago I decided to quit searching for a perfect printer and to do without one altogether. It was an unexpectedly liberating move. Anyone who wants me to post a flier can put it in the mail or drop it by the bookshop, but I don’t print out anything sent to me by e-mail. I’ll look at it, I’ll read it, but I don’t print out anything. When I want fliers of my own, I go to another business and pay for the printing. Same with photographic prints, and the quality is better than anything I ever achieved trying to do it myself, however highly the photographic quality of a printer was touted, and despite those expensive ink cartridges.

More recently I stopped going online at all from home. Further liberation! Mornings and evenings are now free of Internet, Facebook, and e-mail. Sundays I don’t check into the virtual world at all, and when I have a weekday off, one morning coffeehouse session is sufficient to keep me feeling “connected.”

The pleasure of a peaceful, uninterrupted home life is its own reward. My father used to say, when I was a kid and the phone would ring during dinner, “If it’s important, they’ll call back.” In my adult household, we are artist and bookseller, not surgeon and veterinarian, so any emergency that requires our attention can be easily handled:

Leave a message. We’ll get back to you. Or write me a letter. That works, too.

Stocking stuffer???


Dawn said...

I wonder, those of us tied so closely to social media, if we could let go. It wasn't so long ago that we didn't have any of this. Back before cells and blogging and certainly before Facebook and the internet. We were happy then too...we could be again.

P. J. Grath said...

Dawn, one of my sisters made her first trip to the Canadian Boundary Waters a little over a year ago. She approached the adventure half-anticipating and half-dreading it. My sister had had a hard time in our childhood, dealing with our grandmother's outhouse, "and on the American side [of the Boundary Waters]," she told me, "there are pit toilets, but on the Canadian side you just get a TROWEL!" The other big hurdle for her, she worried, would be the absence of any communication with the outside world: no phone signals, no Internet, ZIP. Well, as it turned out, she LOVED being in the wilderness, out of touch with the noisy, civilized world, and the entire experience was a huge shift in consciousness. So yes, we could be happy without all this, Dawn. But I'm glad we're in touch the way we are, for now, anyway.