I first visited the library when I started school. I had just learned to read, and my new library card seemed to open whole new worlds to me - the children's section in particular.

Walking through the library I was absolutely amazed at the volume of books on the shelves. I naively declared that, one day, I would read every book they had.

The librarian laughed and told me that was impossible. No one could possible read every book the library had in stock in one lifetime. Added to that, they were planning to build a new, bigger library that would hold even more books.[ref]The new building wouldn't even be built until I was in high school, but she had a point.[/ref]

I continued to pester my parents to take me back to the library often up until the day I got my first bike and earned permission to travel beyond the boundary of our block. As a teenager, I visited the library every other day, checking out my limit of three books at a time, reading them in two days, then returning to swap them with another set.


Back in the day, some of my favorite places at the mall were bookstores. They had thousands of new stories sitting on the shelves, comfortable reading areas to empower previewing works before purchasing, and cafes where I could sit and enjoy my new book with a cup of coffee.

Over the past few years, though, bookstores have changed drastically. Powell's is still very much the same, and is my all-time favorite store. Borders has closed entirely. Barnes and Noble has removed many of their easy-to-peruse stacks and added Nook displays, toy sections, board games, and walls of "discount bestsellers."[ref]This term makes no sense. If a book is worth it, and a highly-sought-after bestseller, the price should stay high, not drop to a 75% discount.[/ref]

Changing Times

I've been trying to find new books on software development to help refine and further develop my skills. Those of you who've heard the story of how I started in web development know I'm self-taught and leaned heavily on book learning to get where I am today. Unfortunately, the bookstores of today are all but non-existent. And the library of today isn't much better.

Most of the library's floorspace is now occupied by conference/event rooms and computer labs. Many sections that once held reference materials are now filled with aisles of DVDs. I found a few books on web development, but they were all at least 5 years old - each heralded XHTML as the future of the web ...

The web software section at Barnes and Noble is one column on one bookshelf. They had a few helpful volumes on introductory jQuery, but considering the number of times I saw "Wordpress" on the shelf, I question the industry savvy of their book buyer.

Powell's always has wider selection, and thankfully I was able to find what I wanted there. Seeing how the store has continued to change over the years - from stacks upon stacks of books to a few neat shelves surrounded by multiplying displays of non-book nicknacks - I'm not sure how much longer it'll be a dependable resource.

Amazon.com has definitely won the war against book retailers. But I can't visit Amazon and peruse the shelves to find what I'm looking for. This is the basic difference between a search engine and a display. Between a digital retailer and a brick-and-mortar store.

I'd like to say I'll never give up my old school alternatives; unfortunately one person can no more single-handedly keep a bookstore open than they could read every volume contained within in one lifetime. I guess the librarian was right.