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Going to bookstores as a bibliophile is like going to a place of worship. I dress well, make sure to behave well, and enter mindfully.
Believe it or not, I am quite restricted when I buy books (in personâ¦ online, that’s another story). I usually have a plan and budget that I stick to. But these are not my trips to independent bookstores. No. Instead, I’m going to talk about bookstores at airports.
Yes. I’m watching you, Hudson News.
Going to airports as a traveler is like going to Walmart on Black Friday. I dress in a comfy granny chic outfit, make sure I’m in my worst behavior (offers don’t come to you and that door at the end of the terminal neither), and walk in with a only mind aim.
We talk a lot about consciously going to bookstores and libraries and taking the time to browse the shelves. It can really sound like a religious experience for bibliophiles. Many enter bookstores with a mission, which can range from finding a book recommended by a friend to accidentally finding a new author. Even if you walk through a bookstore without a plan, that mindfulness is there, because how could you not be attentive to the written word?
Airport bookstores, however, throw it all out the window. There’s the liminal space, the lack of time, the hilarious and limited selection. While independent bookstores are like the neighborhood church that is a gathering place for the community, airport bookstores are like the drive-through churches of Vegas that lure Ross and Rachel in after a few too many drinks.
And I love them. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I like buying books at airports more than independent bookstores. Blasphemy, I know. But listen to me.
By design, airport bookstores are there for rush travelers who need something to do while tossing themselves through a tube in the air. Unlike local bookstores, which take the time and care to organize a selection, airport bookstores are full of recent releases or mega-bestsellers (sometimes The “Da Vinci Code is the best we can do).
Independent bookstores are wonderful and magical, but they expect something from their customers, whether to support them or to be conscientious readers. In return, customers expect independent bookstores to be a home to the community and continue to fight the good fight.
Airport bookstores mock their customers, and their customers mock airport bookstores. It is strangely beautiful.
Every time I walk into an airport bookstore, certain things happen: I’m short on time, the selection is laughable, and suddenly my budget doesn’t matter. Take these three things into consideration and suddenly I have the perfect storm for a split second decision. Right now, paying $ 35 for that hardcover doesn’t seem so bad. I mean, I’m gonna be in economics eating peanuts and biscoff for a few hours, that might as well.
At the beginning of summer, I visited my sister and realized I was bookless for the three hour flight. I rushed into the bookstore, which luckily was only a few yards from my gate. I ran in and looked around confused. The wall that should have contained books was filled with standard pandemic-related products, such as hand sanitizer and wet wipes.
I glanced around and spotted the books pushed into a corner. OK.
I quickly went through the titles. They were a mix of bestsellers such as Where the crayfish sing and This as well as some more recent versions, such as Malibu on the rise and Klara and the sun. Those were really the only four that caught my eye, other than a paperback with a shirtless Scotsman in a kilt.
So now came the process of elimination. I had already read Where the crayfish sing and Klara and the sun. This left This and Malibu on the rise. Very well. Since it was summer, I decided I wasn’t in the mood for murderous clowns, so I went with it Malibu on the riseâ¦ And some Purells.
The selection of Malibu on the rise was not the revelation. I already liked other Taylor Jenkins Reid books and knew I was going to end up Malibu on the rise. But thanks to the instant decision the airport bookstore forced me to, I was now going to read it sooner than (let’s be honest) a year from now.
It made me think. Since college, I’ve been âplugged inâ to all kinds of media, books included. I am religiously aware of new releases and interviews with early authors. Ditto for shows and movies. It’s so rare for me to make a quick decision to consume media because the attention economy has forced me to do some research beforehand so I don’t waste time on something I don’t like. or that is irrelevant.
Airport bookstores rely on me to make quick decisions in order to make a profit. And I buy what they sell. I like the idea of ââwalking into a bookstore without the burden of waiting. I love that I can walk in and trust my instincts. I like that I can also buy a candy bar and neck pillow in one place.
While there are many spaces designed for consumers to make these quick decisions, few leave me with something that I actually enjoy. But hey, maybe in the end a bookstore is a bookstore.