A few years ago, Borders Books went out of business for good. What was once the best single bookstore in the world, morphed into a mega-chain of mega-bookstores with coffee shops, kids' toys, dumb trinkets, and even dumber CEOs running the company. In the end, they forgot the very essence of what a book store is -- selling books, and being able to connect with your clientele. When there was just that single Borders on State Street, that was, the best bookstore ever. There were no toys, there was no coffee, no music, no movies-- just really knowledgeable staff, and excellent selections of books and magazines. Yes, that was pre-internet, pre-web, pre-Amazon, and pre-ebooks. Really prehistoric, right? But as a photographer, and a bibliophile, nothing beats a real bookstore. Being able to browse a shelf of books is somewhat like going out with a camera. I never know what I'll see, but if I don't go. I won't see anything.
Since Borders closed, we have not had a downtown general bookstore selling new titles. Yes, we have five downtown stores selling used books, and I appreciate that, but until the past week or so we did not have one selling NEW books. Fortunately, a couple of book-lovers stepped in and launched a new independent bookstore, called Literati Bookstore. I went there on Friday, and was pleasantly surprised. The owners seem to have a good feel for books that will interest the Ann Arbor shoppers, and are not duplicating titles that one might better find at Barnes & Noble. You won't find a "fill in the blank" for Dummies there, nor a lot of trade paperbacks.
Literati is a small store with two floors, and I am sure that they will be responsive to customer suggestions. The store invites browsing, and is very attractive. I really hope that the owners succeed, because book-selling these days is a tough business. However, given Ann Arbor's hunger for books, and the downtown location, I expect that Literati could hang in there and even thrive. They also showcase manual typewriters!
Okay, back to photographers and books. As an avid photographer, I also like books on photography. No, I don't need yet another technique book, and there are plenty of those on my my shelves that I should probably get rid of. I do like books of photography, since that is the best way to see a body of work without waiting for an exhibit somewhere. It is hard to judge such books online, and seeing them in person -- as in a bookstore -- is my preferred way. Sometimes serendipitous finds will reveal some gem I had never considered, and without having the book in hand, I probably would never have bought it. It also works the other way, too. A title that looks interesting may reveal that it's not buy-worthy, once I have looked through it. The book I purchased Friday at Literati is John Maloof's "Vivian Maier Street Photographer." It's an excellent book of Maier's photography with really nice reproductions. If you are not familiar with Vivian Maier, just Google her and be amazed. Better yet, take a half hour to watch this excellent video from the Chicago PBS station.
I hope that Literati Bookstore succeeds. Ann Arbor needs a downtown bookstore, and I intend to support them. My book budget isn't huge, but I am willing to support a local bookstore when they carry books that I want to read. Browsing is the best way to find a new book, so get down there and have a look.
I'll be sending them a list of titles that they may want to consider carrying, and maybe we can get the Crappy Camera Club to have a reading list and do some event that will also generate a crowd there.
Welcome Literati Bookstore!!