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In praise of the physical book

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There's a lovely piece in the Washington Post today, a column so persuasive that it almost makes me ashamed of my beloved Kindle. Richard Cohen writes with such love and nostalgia about the special pleasures of physical books and physical bookstores.

Which of us is going to disagree with him? Certainly not I. Not only do I know the first bookstore he mentions (the Boulder Bookstore, in Boulder, Colo., where my husband and I enthusiastically browsed during our vacation last summer) but I am also, like Cohen, a former patron of the now defunct Books & Co. in Manhattan.

Cohen recalls the practice at Books & Co. of leaving a selection of staff picks on a table in the middle of the store. He says that's where he discovered Joseph Roth and Thomas Bernhard.

My discovery at the Books & Co. staff-picks table was Kazuo Ishiguro, long before they made a movie out of "Remains of the Day." I read all of Ishiguro's novels (was it three or four at the time?) one after another, savoring each, and blessing the Books & Co. employee who put the first one out on the table for me to find.

Anyway, I have no intention of giving up my Kindle. (In fact when we leave on vacation next week it's the first thing I'm putting in my bag.) Even Cohen confesses that he has bought one – although he has yet to test it out.

I encourage him to do so. If I, certainly the lowest-tech person on my block, can learn to love it, so will he. But at the same time, I'm going to be joining him in his gentle sense of melancholy. It is a sad thing indeed to think of a world in which a store like Books & Co. can no longer find a home.


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