The world has become so high-tech these days. Last weekend, my husband and I ordered Chipotle take-out from my smart phone and were sent a reply that our order would be ready for pick-up in precisely twenty minutes. As we contemplated what to do in Aventura while we waited to pick up our order, my husband jokingly suggested, “Why don’t we meander around the bookstore for a few minutes?” The genesis of the comment is our shared disappointment since the Borders and Barnes and Noble in Aventura closed.
Aventura, Florida. Named after the Spanish word for adventure, the self-described City of Excellence is an affluent and densely populated 2.7 mile stretch of land comprised of countless high-rises overlooking the ocean. It is the home to the world famous Aventura Mall, boasting over 300 stores with plans to add more. However, no bookstore can be found in the City of Excellence. How could this be?
Just last night I spoke in Boca Raton for the Donna Klein Jewish Academy Friends of the Arts. The fact that my neighborhood has no bookstore came up in conversation, and frankly, it was quite sad. This admission is not merely the complaint of an author with a self-serving agenda. I am a voracious reader and love books.
Others share in my deep frustration about losing our beloved bookstore. The storefront was a destination.It is where we took our kids as toddlers to introduce them to the magical world of storytelling. It was the perfect place to pitch yourself when you were in-between carpool and the dentist appointment. It was a sanctuary of sorts.
A world of possibility that afforded many of us the cheapest vacation we would ever take.
Because we have become a world of sophisticated technology which allows us to order on demand, we have shot ourselves in the foot by purchasing literary treats for our Kindles and Nooks, all at the sacrifice of the brick-and-mortar bookstore. Storefronts have been forced to close as rents have sky-rocketed and sales of actual books have declined. Just yesterday, the New York Times featured the article: Literary City, Bookstore Desert. Giants like Amazon now control book sales, and it is only our outdated, underfunded public libraries and a handful of remaining bookstores (none in the Aventura vicinity) that offer a place to peruse and actually touch books.
The consensus of the group of women last night was this: We can’t fight technology, but we can and should certainly continue to teach our children the importance of books and reading. “No matter the vessel,” one woman stated, “kids today need to read.” This much we can all agree: Reading improves your vocabulary, increases your knowledge of the world, and introduces you to people and places you may otherwise never know.
How can we stand back and watch as another high-end fashion retailer replaces a bookstore? How can we teach our children and our children’s children the importance of books and reading without sharing the bookstore experience with them? Don’t you miss the joy and relaxation of walking through the aisles of a bookstore, picking up interesting book covers, and reading a few paragraphs on a page or two of paper? Don’t you miss the joy of holding your child’s hand as they browse the children’s section in search of the next adventure?
Let’s really be a City of Excellence and bring back the bookstore.
Rochelle Weinstein is a novelist. Her books, What We Leave Behind and The Mourning After, cannot be found in any Aventura bookstore, but are available at Blue Door Books in Cedarhurst, NY and on Amazon and barnesandnoble.com.