Last week, someone from Seventh Street Books, my publisher, asked me for my hometown. This in itself is a complex question, because I lived in the country when I was born, then in a mid-sized Indiana town until I was 12, and then again in the country but with a tiny-town address until I left for college. “Hometown” is a complicated term for some of us, but I gave him the run-down and then pinpointed the mid-sized town where I lived during some formative years. Why? Because what he really wanted to know was—Where are the people who will care that you wrote a book? And the mid-sized, formative-years town is where there is a newspaper.
But he wasn’t technically asking which hometown was my hometown because of the newspaper issue. He wanted to know about bookstores.
I posted a long haha on Facebook about that one. Because there are no bookstores.
When I was young, there was a strip mall store with a small inventory where I got my latest Sweet Valley Highs, and I think there might have been a used/antiquarian store downtown after I didn’t live there anymore. For the most part, though, the town I’m from has been bookstore free.
They have an Amazon warehouse down the highway about four miles, though. Shipping is really fast.
It’s too bad, isn’t it? But it’s not the end of the world, since I and many of my friends still managed to be bookish people with access to books any time we wanted them. We had exceptional libraries. When I think of my childhood (in the mid-sized town—I did say formative years, didn’t I?), what I think of is walking to the library with my mom and sister, and carting back several pounds of books for the week. It was not a short walk, but we didn’t have a second car then. If we had driven to the library, do you think I’d still remember those trips as fondly?
I hope that the kids in my hometown(s) are finding ways to get their hands on books. Paper, hardcover, e-, new, used, borrowed, bought. Doesn’t have to be mine, when the time comes. (You’re too young for mine, anyway, kids. Drop it.) I hope, and I know that those who really want to get books will often find a way. That’s why I’m a little blithe about the book business right now and all its flux. Because I have hope, and it is in readers.