The advent of “the book itself [being] in the throes of a technological transformation, and book readers undergoing a major demographic shift” is often exalted as a revolution leaving no nostalgia for the dying bastions of literature and print that our local newspaper and independent booksellers represent. And while I most often share this excitement for the future, I cannot help but mourn for the loss of such local landmarks.
We have had 53 (mostly) happy years of bookselling in Vancouver. We have offered friendly recommendations, and stocked good books. For 53 years Duthies has provided a good book service to the city, championed BC and Canadian books, encouraged the public to read local writers, and helped to create a knowledgeable reading public. The book culture of Vancouver and BC has grown up and flourished around Duthies from publisher’s reps to publishing houses , authors, illustrators, designers, printers, literary festivals, and university writing and publishing programs have emerged in the Duthies milieu and many Duthies alumni work in all parts of the book trade.
Thank you and Good bye
Everybody knows that Independent bookstores have been under pressure from the ‘big box’ operations for many years now and it is clear that it is not going to get any better; the likes of Chapters, and Amazon are ruthless in their drive for market share and we cannot compete on price anymore. The book itself is in the throes of a technological transformation and book readers undergoing a major demographic shift.
It isn’t that I fear our burgeoning online networks won’t foster the same meccas of culture that the bound book’s trade and sale has meant to civilization, but while we straddle the boundary between old and new, I can’t help but think of what so many independent bookstores – in Little Rock, and across the American South, as well as in Vancouver and all points in between – have meant to my education, and done to help me quench my thirst for good books.
As part of our annual Eminent Person Study, our class takes a field trip into Vancouver to visit its local independent booksellers to absorb and celebrate the hubs of knowledge these places represent where they remain in our city. And I hope that we can continue in this tradition, as the power latent in walls piled floor-to-ceiling (and basement) in volumes which are each the result of the prolonged outpouring of an author’s passion are sacred places in the study of English. Like Ariana’s bookcases, they are monuments to literary souls.
Here is tonight’s CBC News piece on the closing of Duthie Books.