Monday, July 24, 2006

Arnold Toynbee once said that booksellers are the engines of civilization.
In this fast-changing world, it is becoming difficult to comprehend that point of view.

There were once, in the recent past, many kinds of people that could not resist any store that said USED BOOKS on the widow; or that bore a sign saying RARE BOOKS. They often came just to browse, and usually stayed longer than they intended. Those that entered these shops came with widely differing levels of education and experience; and they were greeted with a broad range of sights and smells. Books represent the encased thoughts and imagination of a thousand generations of people like us. Bookstores were the place where their feelings, thoughts, observations, learning, knowledge, and wisdom mingled with our own... and were taken home to be savored at leisure or passed on, as a gift, to others.

The Amazon/Google/EBay empires present a pale reflection of those shops. But the electronic world gives us a unique opportunity to meet in ways that are reminiscent of the old book shops, yet expand the conversation immeasurably.

I have been an antiquarian bookseller, rare book appraiser, and library consultant for over thirty six years. I miss the kinds of conversations that used to take place in book stores. More importantly, I want to have similar conversations with folks who have never been in a used book store ... as well as those that can still vividly feel the experience of their favorite old book shop.

I have very little skill with blogs and web sites... but I do know books. I'll need your help to get the conversation started - and to show me how to make our little corner behind the booksellers desk both stimulating and cozy.

Please join in.

Ron Lieberman


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