Tuesday 12 March 2024

True Browsers

 A bookseller, from whom I had been buying for nearly forty years, and with whom I had grown old, told me, shortly before he closed down his shop, that the nature of customers had changed over the years. True browsers like me, who were content to spend two or three hours among the dust to find something of whose existence they previously had had no inkling, but which, by a process of elective affinity, aroused their interest and even sparked a passion, were few and were old. In so far as young people came into his shop at all, they came to enquire whether he had such and such a book, usually required reading for some course or other; and if he had not, they left immediately, having no further interest in his stock. Their need for the book in question must have been urgent, since it was available online for delivery next day; they must have been late with an assignment. So if youth were the future, the future, at least for second-hand booksellers with shops, was bleak.
Anthony Daniels, ‘The digital challenge, I: Loss & gain, or the fate of the book’, The New Criterion, 31 (November 2012), p. 4.