Charles Petzold

Where Have All the Bookstores Gone?

August 26, 2006
Roscoe, NY

Gil's Book Loft in Binghamton, New York, is no more.

We made our annual summer drive from Roscoe to Binghamton yesterday specifically to visit Gil's Book Loft, and started to worry a bit when we didn't see the sign for the store outside 82 Court Street. But the street door was unlocked, and the shelf of fake books at the top of the stairs was still there, so we still had some hope. When we got to the top, we found the door to the store open, but the store totally gutted. No books, no shelves, no chatty Deborah behind the front desk. It was very sad.

When we called the old phone number to find out if it had moved, Deborah picked up and told us that Gil's is now a "Web-only" business. The books have been moved to a warehouse which is not open to the public.

Don't get me wrong: I love buying used books on line. I was a major user of Bibliofind before Amazon bought it and killed it, and I think is the greatest thing to come out of Canada since Glenn Gould. These sites are great if you're looking for a particular title, or an author, or if you'd like to see a bunch of books with a particular word or words in the title.

But I suspect that no amount of fancy interface will ever quite reproduce the experience of browsing through an brick-and-mortar used-book store, and the serendipitous discovery of a wonderful book you never knew existed.