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David Sable Headshot

Temptation in the Big Apple

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The temptation was too great.

The need...the need...what can I say?

I did it!

YES!

I can't hide from it.

I went into a bookstore and bought books.

There... it's out -- WHEW -- I'm feeling better already.

Brick and mortar. No digital full-immersion experiences.

No clicks, swipes, tweets or posts.

Just people and books -- lots of them. And a librarian of sorts -- look it up if you've never heard the term.

And it was liberating. Let me explain.

My two grandsons were spending the weekend with us.

I always buy a book or two to read with them. Printed books. No video; no "interactivity;" nothing moving, jumping or singing... except for me.

My usual source? Amazon -- children's book section -- "These recommendations are based on items you own and more."

Always works, easy and convenient, no misses so far. At least not many.

But here's the thing.

Friday came around too quickly. I hadn't acted -- I was too late for even Super Expensive Ship Right Away and Get It Almost Before you Order rates.

So I did the unthinkable and defied all of the analysts who don't just predict but claim that bookstores are already buried, and I entered the Dead Zone.

Let me be clear before I continue -- numbers speak for themselves -- obviously the hardcover book business is declining and the e-reader business is growing -- as it should! But do read on.

No zombies; no walking dead-- yet. I went right to the children's section -- and there they were: bodies all over the place, on the carpets; in the chairs; on the little stage; leaning against the bookshelves; looking, reading, sharing, talking, excitedly pulling parents and friends and brothers and sisters and whomever over to look or read or touch or browse.

I walked around picking up random books that caught my attention. Looking for authors or illustrators I recognized; titles that brought a smile; colors that caught my attention.

I picked up books and reveled in the sensory rush of lush printing and the tactile experience of different papers. I imagined how Henry and Teddy would react -- those two primal digitals love printed books too.

Soon my arms were weighted down -- I had far surpassed Amazon's average order of about $49 and I was still going strong -- very strong.

More:

I asked about one book I wanted -- the sales associate looked it up on her computer -- according to the database there was one copy left in the store but she couldn't find it. She thought it was possibly in the basement storage and called down to have someone look -- good service.

Meanwhile I watched an older woman -- clearly the supervisor -- help others find their own reads. She listened to the moms and dads but questioned the children; she went online and shared Amazon's rating as well as others too, but one savvy adult asked her what she thought -- and wisely went with that opinion.

She reminded me of the librarians of old who helped give me my love of books. She knew the material -- she had a POV. She was not just an amalgam of unvetted reviews -- she knew.

Soon my helper came back to apologize that they couldn't find it; she was sure it was there, somewhere. The computer said it was -- but no one seemed to know just where.

At this point the older woman intervened and asked me to wait just one more minute. And in less time than that she returned lovingly holding the last copy of the book I wanted. Her smile said it all -- you will love it she said. I did -- more so did the boys.

I checked out -- similar to one click (by the way, based on the info from the cashier, I hadn't renewed my card since 2010, so you know the last time I was physically in the bookstore) -- took fastest delivery but really cheap. I carried the bag, and in no time I was on the street in the crazy current of a hot New York late summer Friday afternoon -- letting it buffet me to and fro as I fought my way home to unpack my purchases and wait for the full immersive experience.

And there you have it again. Let's be clear, it doesn't mean that e-readers are not taking over -- most of my reading is done on my iPad Kindle App -- and it doesn't mean that the bookstore model isn't broken -- it is.

But here is what it sure as hell means: we had better lose the mindless chatter that so permeates our lives about immersive experiences; social, digital -- as if nothing else exists or ever existed. Try the bookstore again and then go online. We are nowhere near creating the true all-encompassing experience that we are leaving behind -- nor is there any need to. DIGITAL EXPONENTIAL -- room for both. In fact my bet is more than room -- value -- in sales; in loyalty; in revenue and profit for those who care.

As I said try it. I bet you buy more and find treasures. So it might be broke -- but find a fix!

Listen:

"It's important to turn off the computer and do things in the real world."
Andy Borowitz

Who, by the way, also said:

"There is a fine line between social networking and wasting your f**king life."
Andy Borowitz

It was a great weekend. We are still reading. The interaction is amazing and by the way -- I just added some books to my Kindle App.

What do you think?

NB -- here are some of the books I bought that they loved. Take advantage of my having been in the bookstore and check them out:

1. What To Do If An Elephant Stands On Your Foot by Michelle Robinson

2. This Land Is Your Land...10th Anniversary Edition words and music by Woody Guthrie, paintings by Kathy Jakobsen

3. The Pirates Next Door by Jonny Duddle

4. Stuck by Oliver Jeffers

Let me know.

P.S. It may explain one way the future could unfold. I think it's telling who Captain Kirk wants as his lawyer...