I’m as sentimental as the next guy, I suppose. Maybe more so. But lately I’ve been hit with so much sappy, nostalgic bullshit that I can’t take it anymore.
Isn’t it sad that there aren’t any record stores around like when we were kids? No, it isn’t. It’s nice, I guess, that thirty years ago we had a place to buy bongs and score an import album. I get that. I was there, man. But come on. The entire universe of recorded music divided into four or five store sections and represented by 10,000 pieces of vinyl? The selection was too small to be authoritative and yet too large to navigate in that computerless age. Plus, you couldn’t listen to it before you bought it.
Today I can access a much larger catalog, navigate it much more easily, discover things I’ve never heard of, give them a listen, buy them and begin enjoying them immediately. All while waiting for a bus.
Go back to the way things were? Not in a zillion years, pal.
Should we even talk about book stores? I guess we have to, since everyone’s getting all misty about the closing of so many Border’s stores. I have always liked–and still like–browsing bookshelves with a latte in hand. And when I was a kid my local strip mall book store was a haven for me. Give nine-year-old-me a $10 bill and that’s where you’d find me, agonizing deliciously over the sci-fi or fantasy shelves, trying to determine which title might be the most transportive. But when I look back on it, the experience could have been better. It’s the same story: a small inventory and not much to help me decide. Amazon to the rescue.
Of course I did see the sign in the closing Border’s store: “no, you can’t come in and use the bathroom, try Amazon.” Har! But I really want to write something below that witty observation: “perhaps you should have sold toilets instead!”
Here’s an idea, though. Maybe brick-and-mortar stores should start doing more value-added stuff. Camera stores could give photography lessons. Book stores could have read-aloud nights. Record shops could have “be the DJ” events where people could sign up for two or three songs of their choosing to share with others. They could even get local cafes, restaurants or bars to cater the events. These would be experiences you can’t quite get online–and they might actually build communities of people who saw them as relevant again.
Until then, I’ll be online without much regret over the old way of doing things.