A new bookshop has opened in my neighbourhood and you’d suppose it was the second coming, the joy it has induced. A bookshop! Opening! (Clearly, a 3rd of the area is given over to a restaurant the place the desserts are roughly $2 a chew. However nonetheless.) Studies on the dying of the bricks‑and‑mortar bookstore have been occurring for a while, peaking final yr within the US when the chain E book World closed 45 shops and the New York Occasions predicted “the dying of Barnes and Noble is now believable”. Shops that stay open put on the baffled air of these not solely certain what their goal is.
And so I used to be excited to go to the brand new retailer. This wasn’t a sequence – it was that legendary creature the unbiased bookstore. Or independentish: it’s owned by a holding firm with one different department in New York. (I’ve to admit, I’ve all the time hated Strand Bookstore, the legendary and aggressively happy‑with‑itself secondhand ebook emporium in New York that’s warding off an effort by town to listing the constructing and bury it in paperwork, and which, for instance, invitations its clients to climb up ladders to search out issues.)
However the very best small bookstores in New York stay soothing locations, with excellently curated tables on which you wish to purchase the whole lot displayed. The brand new retailer was notably thrilling for my neighbourhood, provided that the final to open regionally was the Amazon bookstore, which doesn’t take money, and arranges books based on on-line advertising and marketing rules resembling these titles which have “greater than 10,000 opinions”.
Shakespeare & Co is just not like that, and simply seeing it on the road – stoutly dealing with down a department of McDonald’s, and on the location beforehand occupied by Albertina’s Superb Meals – was deeply thrilling. Strolling inside was like becoming a member of a conference of barely fetishy individuals who roamed round touching the books and saying “Isn’t this glorious!”, as if they’d dropped in from Mars.
And, after all, it’s beautiful to have a bookshop within the neighbourhood. Nonetheless, whereas I attempted very exhausting to have an exquisite expertise, a number of issues interfered. My God, real-world costs are surprising when one is used to procuring on-line ($18, with tax, for a 230-page paperback that’s $11 on Amazon).
And, ruined by the warehouse sensibility of all merchandise, all the time, I discovered myself aggravated by the thinness of the inventory. Just one Marilyn Robinson – and Gilead, not House; Jean Rhys’s Vast Sargasso Sea, for which I do know I ought to be grateful, however no Good Morning, Midnight; and neither of the youngsters’s books I wished.
That is ridiculous on my half, I do know. And but the environment wasn’t fairly the comforting hug I’d been anticipating both. As an alternative, it felt just a few phases shy of panic: a query, like civil warfare reenactment, of strolling round open-mouthed, looking at a set of quaint exigencies and attempting to generate goodwill in direction of one thing all of us knew, regardless of ourselves, to be doomed.
• Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist