Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Book store fire has got me thinking

Book World, an independent bookstore in the small town of Chillicothe, Ohio, has been damaged by fire, possibly quite extensively. I only know this because I used to work in Chillicothe, for seven years, and I keep up with the local news there through the town's newspaper's Web site.

Check out that Web site for the most recent story on the fire.

As a writer, this bothers me. I haven't been to Book World in nearly a decade, but when I lived in Chillicothe it was the only real bookstore in town. The only other places to buy books (that I remember) were K-Mart, Wal-Mart and a couple of comic book shops. Book World had new books, but they also had a pretty good selection of used books.

Small towns need their bookstores. Often it is the only way for local readers to peruse and/or purchase new books, and sometimes even older books. It's also a great way for writers to spread their audience.

All too often, because of sheer numbers and marketing, writers and publishers (and all other businesses, for that matter) focus only on urban areas; that's where the most people are, that's where the readers are, so that's where the money must be.

But across the great big country that is the United States, there are thousands upon thousands of small towns with bookstores. Maybe we need to be paying more attention to them, not only for monetary reasons, but to help spread the joys of reading.

There was a time not so long ago, maybe forty years, when reading was available to all, but in the last half century reading has gotten a reputation as being a sort of snobby passtime, as if it's above or beyond the average jane or joe. There was a time when blue-collar workers carried around a beat-up paperback in their back pocket, but that doesn't seem to be the case today (for a variety of reasons, including the rise of electronic forms of entertainment and the fact your average paperback today costs a bundle of money when it used to be less than a dollar). Steinbeck, Hemingway and O'Henry weren't necessarily writing for the intelligentsia, and neither were Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber and Andrew Offutt.

I say it's time to change this way of thinking. Reading isn't something for just one type of person, or one so-called class of people. Reading can open doors and bring entertainment to all. If I think about it, I'm a white-collar worker, but I've worked blue-collar and red-necked jobs long ago and that's my early background.

Let's give reading back to the every-day person.

And I can think of one way to help, just a little. Keep abreast of what's going on with Book World through the Chillicothe Gazette site, or elsewhere on the Web. When this small-town bookstore begins rebuilding, and they will, maybe mail them a package of used books. Find a handful of old paperbacks you no longer need, and find out where to mail them.

Being a business, maybe Book World won't want or need our books. But I'm guessing they will need all the help they can get. Insurance money only goes so far.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ty...It is/was the only bookstore still in Chillicothe. I will have to read your blogs. Take care,
Jim Hilles

Ty Johnston said...

Thanks for the comments Jim,
And let me add, for anyone visiting Southern Ohio, you have to visit downtown Chillicothe. It is my favorite small town in America, and I love it to this day. I only left because my job took me elsewhere, and I wouldn't be opposed to living there again someday.

Anonymous said...

Just a little note.. I'm sure they would LOVE to have used books. They had a program there to trade in your used books for credit.. and you could get new ones. This is indeed a sad story for Chillicothe.
I was raised in Chillicothe myself :)
Renita Nunley-Ruiz