Bricks & Mortar, Paper & Binding

The arrival of the first big box bookstores seemed, to bibliophiles, like utopia on the one hand and a nightmare on the other. Utopia because, suddenly (and at least at first) many of the works of literature or otherwise that they craved were now at their fingertips. A nightmare because the arrival of these mega-chains sounded the death knell for many of the little stores that had sustained and nourished the literary culture in the first place. And it was easy to predict that when, inevitably, these behemoths eventually fell, there would probably be a bare cupboard left to take their place.

As that event is now coming to pass (at least in the U.S. with Borders, but surely to Chapters/Indigo in Canada before too long) we do have e-books and Amazon to cushion the blow – although these new institutions are also part of the problem. And there is still a ravenous, if smaller, appetite for the physical culture inherent in visiting real bookstores rather than just clicking through PayPal, and in owning well-designed collections of words rather than merely holding a license for an electronic file.

Well, coming to the rescue (or at least what seems like the first idea along the right path) is Fleeting Pages, what’s being billed as a “pop-up book emporium” by those behind the project. It’s an effort to literally fill the space left behind by an abandoned big box bookstore in Pittsburgh with small press as well as self-published works and turn it into one of those places we’d left behind. Once stocked, the store will only be open for about a month, largely as an experiment.

Now, who knows if this “pop-up” will end up as much more than an extended small-press book fair? But it certainly seems like a neat test-lab, and an experiment worth watching for those who still prefer bricks and mortar, and paper and binding.

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