Once upon a time, when Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble were mates, my mate and I decided that when the time came for us to retire we would get together and open a second hand bookshop. We weren’t planning to get old, you understand, that was for other people, but being cautious types we decided it would be wise have a back-up plan. I mean, our parents were always beginning sentences with ‘in my day’ but we didn’t believe it (then). We were convinced that they had always been middle aged, but what if we were wrong about it. Better not to take chances.
My friend and I knew nothing about business or finance, but we were expert collectors. We scoured the Opportunity shops and second hand book shops and occasionally came home with illustrated books, books covered in Moroccan leather, out of print books and first editions. Not that often, actually, but enough times to make it an exciting activity. Now the Op shops and book shop owners have wised up and are adding those treasures to their own collections.
Our shop of the future was going to be a combination of book shop and café. Our customers would buy the books, then settle down to gloat over their purchases over coffee and cake. We would have first dibs, of course, on any first editions that came our way, but then those are the perks.
Bill Gates would have been a teenager at the time we were making our plans so we hadn’t a twinge of foreboding. When those clunky boxes with their archaic programs arrived we were clueless. We thought them state of the art but couldn’t imagine them being improved upon in any way or useful except for business which is why Bill Gates is probably a multi-billionaire and I’m not. I had an IBM electric typewriter back then. Who knew it would end in a landfill and who would imagine that those electronic clunkers would one day mutate into iPhones, Kindles and streamlined IPads, the latter being capable of leaping tall buildings at a single bound. Very science fiction. I saw something like those IPads on the original Star Trek. Those things can do everything but the ironing. I wasn’t impressed about the ironing part. Not so impressed, either that our 21st C gewgaws have turned out to be a blight on the recycling landscape. The models are constantly changing and everyone, but everyone just must have the latest.
The irony isn’t lost on those of us who have been talking about the advent of the paperless office for decades, but still back up our documents in hard copy as well as electronic bites. Still, the dawn of the paperless book seems a lot more promising. I don’t think the next generation is going to miss it. I’m saving my books to show my one year old grandson who won’t believe, one day, that in my day hard copy books existed.
It’s mostly paperbacks being produced these days. They fall apart after a couple of reads so you’d think I wouldn’t miss them. But I prefer to see books gracing my bookshelves to an only, lonely Kindle. All it can do is save me space.
I turned out to be wrong about book shops. New or second hand, they are on their way out. I turned out to be wrong, too, about old age. My knees are creaking and I’m sorry to say that I won’t be getting to put a comfy couch in the corner of that mythical bookshop, or myself on it. I won’t be curling up on that couych and re- reading old favourites: Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, Terry Pratchett and Kerry Greenwood. I’d even be prepared to serve those pesky customers if they caught my attention and insisted, but now that’s all out the window. All our plans down the gurgler. My friend and I will have to think of something else. If you have any use for avid readers and antiqe collectors of antique books do let me know, otherwise my friend and I will be forced to join the ranks of the likes of Barney and Fred and Fred’s dinosaur, Dino.