Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dusty Old Books

Happens now and then that restlessness wiggles its way into my days and brings on an urge to get away from the daily same ol’, same ol’ sights of water, sky and sand. The noise and disruption of spring break and its party crowds would probably have been enough to send anyone else running for the hills, but I hung around. Now that it’s quiet around these parts once again, a ‘get in the car and go’ notion grabbed me this morning and wheeled me off to Daytona.

There have been quite a few articles, editorials and musings lately regarding the effect e-books have had on the publishing industry. I’ve read a few of them and even made my own comments on the issue. With their convenient home delivery and competitive pricing giants like Amazon play a part in the demise of independent booksellers, and I am probably not alone in realizing that the popularity of e-books must have something to do with the increasing difficulty smaller booksellers face in keeping their doors open. Sometime after 2007 and the arrival of the Kindle bookstores began vanishing. One of them was a huge and favorite used book dealer in Daytona called Mandala Books. The demise of many Borders Books franchises may or may not be related to increased e-book sales, but at least there’s still one of those not too far away. According to Andy Rooney in a recent CBS commentary, e-books are now selling better than paperback books. He goes on to say that he wants his ‘real’ books, unable to imagine not being able to pick up a book and thumb through it. A publisher friend of Rooney’s believes that e-books will eventually make books extinct. Since moving back to the US and going everywhere in a car, my Kindle has languished on a shelf draining its battery charge away with lack of use. It’s a little different traveling on buses and trains every day when a Kindle is definitely a lightweight convenience.

But good news in Daytona. In the building that once housed Mandala Books on International Speedway a new store has appeared called Daytona Books & Metaphysics. There is a lot about the store that is familiar because the owner bought Mandala’s unsold inventory, and there it remains in much the same shelf locations. The other half of the store is related to metaphysical things I hardly noticed. Lots of incense, candles and zen ditties, and I believe they have palm readings or something of that nature. I didn’t give any of it more than a glance. The bookshelves have been well-cleaned, the books sorted and re-shelved and all of it returned to its old-book charms, still hiding the occasional rare first edition at a very reasonable price.

Around the corner and three blocks down Beach Street is Abraxas Books, another used bookseller with so many shelves, stacks and boxes of books, a complete browsing of everything inside would take at least three five-hour days. When I first walked in, struggling through an ancient and hard-to-open door, I looked around at all the books thinking I had stumbled upon a corner of heaven. The owner of the store told me that his collection of first editions in literature was the weakest in the store, but he was obviously being humble—the collection is rich enough to thrill, all of it priced reasonably. I picked up a 1965 first book club edition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood for five dollars. All in all I bought five books at the two stores spending thirty-three dollars.

The photograph above shows the five books and one extra spread across a table

1. Afterlife by Paul Monette, 1990 first edition

2. Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo, 2005 Advanced Reader’s Edition

3. Best of the South (Stories), 1996 first edition

4. Net of Jewels by Ellen Gilchrist, 1992 first edition

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, 1965 first edition (book club)

6. Naoko by Keigo Higashino, 2004 paperback (arrived by mail from Amazon)

First read from the stack above? From No. 3, A 1994 story by Barry Hannah titled, “Nicodemus Bluff.”


  1. A really delightful and interesting post today. Knowing how you loooove to browse through old bookstores, I know you were in a part of heaven.

  2. Some funny tongue-in-cheek stuff from George Orwell's essay ("Bookshop Memories") about his days of working in a bookstore: "...there are two well-known types of pest by whom every second-hand bookshop is haunted. One is the decayed person smelling of old breadcrusts who comes every day, sometimes several times a day, and tries to sell you worthless books. The other is the person who orders large quantities of books for which he has not the smallest intention of paying." And later in the essay: "As a rule a bookshop is horribly cold in winter, because if it is too warm the windows get misted over, and a bookseller lives on his windows. And books give off more and nastier dust than any other class of objects yet invented, and the top of a book is the place where every bluebottle prefers to die."

    Still, nothing quite like a book lover's thrill at the roar of an unread book or a bargain long sought for. Like my Nook sometimes but sort of like the gun lobby says, They will have to pry a real book from my dying hands.

  3. Are you picking on my kindle??? I'm not totally convinced that e-books will replace books for me. I still love having books around, I love paging through them, and I love browsing in bookstores. However, there is something very engaging about the kindle and I love browsing Amazon. I guess I'm a cross between a dinosaur and a computer nerd. There is still a place for both in this world!


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America