Full disclosure: my "annoying, know-it-all douchebag" alarm starts blaring when I see someone who's billed as "author and thinker," as Seth Godin is. Pardon me, but doesn't the fact that we all have a neocortex capable of cognitive processing (with the exception of some Republican members of the House of Representatives) make us all "thinkers"?
Okay, rant concluded. Onward...
Anyway, I actually like Godin more than the rest of the "answers to Big Questions" crowd, such as Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Pink. Seth seems pretty down-to-earth and commonsensical, which is refreshing. But he stuck a broadsword deep in the side of the vulnerable independent bookstore not long ago when he wrote:
“Great independent bookstores deserve to thrive, and I hope they will. But they won’t thrive as local substitutes for Amazon. They will make it if they become hubs, connectors and gift shops…More important, though, is the idea of a local place where smart people go to meet each other and the ideas they care about. We shouldn’t have that because it’s the last chance of the local bookstore, we should have that because it’s worth doing.”
Is he right? I suspect he is. After all, home video and Netflix didn't make people stop going to movie theaters, but streaming on-demand movies did pretty much drive Blockbuster into extinction. Amazon and ebooks don't seem likely to kill books, but they do seem likely to change the way we buy them, which is what Netflix did to retail video rental and then to retail DVD sales.
The question is, what about the experience of browsing, discovering and sampling new books like one does a flight of new wines? What's going to happen to that? Is that the future rule of indy bookstores, or is some new form of book-centric gathering spot going to spring up for the millions who adore the smell of ink on paper and the rustle of pages turning under the hand of an unseen person in the next aisle?
What say you?