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Will Google kill used bookstores?

October 1, 2009

I made some purchases in a used bookstore recently. As I headed toward the door, the store owner quipped that it won’t be long before stores like his become extinct, thanks to the Google Book Project.

I sure hope that’s not true. One of my great escapes is getting lost in a shop filled with used, old and/or rare books. Time and worries vanish. His concern is real, though. The proposed Google settlement would allow Google to sell out-of-print books still under copyright in digital format on the Internet.  Why would anyone need to go to a used bookstore? he asked.

Because many of us will still want the hardbound book and will pay the extra cost for it, I replied, but I don’t think it made the bookshop owner  feel better. He asks everyone who enters his store if they want to buy it. 

Here are three books I brought home with me:

Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York by Gail ParentSheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York
by Gail Parent

This 1970s best-seller was on the syllabus of one of my college lit classes along with Alix Kates Shulman’s Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen and Mary McCarthy’s The Group. I wasn’t looking for it, but what a fun surprise to find it.  

Parent’s story was made into a film in 1975 that wasn’t near the success of the book. The New York Times film critic wrote this great first line: “Something disastrous happened to the heroine of Gail Parent’s funny novel, Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York, on her way to the silver screen.”

The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
This is Erdrich’s second novel published in 1986, after Love Medicine. It’s  a family drama that takes place in North Dakota spanning 40 years. 

Erdrich is scheduled to give the keynote address of the Kenyon Review Literary Festival on November 7 at 8 pm in Kenyon’s Rosse Hall. The lecture is free, but tickets are required to manage the limited space.  Erdrich is the 2009 recipient of the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement.

0909300003Slow Learner by Thomas Pynchon
This is a 1984 collection of early stories Pynchon wrote between 1958 and 1964. In the introduction, Pynchon speaks of middle-aged tranquility, “…in which I now pretend to have reached a level of clarity about the young writer I was back then.” 

He adds, “It is only fair to warn even the most kindly disposed of readers that there are some mighty tiresome passages here, juvenile and delinquent, too.”

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