Bookstores are not dead. Despite the advance of ordering anything and everything via the Internet, some bookstores have managed to not only survive the online invasion but thrive, as well.
One of the things on my list for my vacation in Arizona was to check out the Peregrine Book Company, an independent bookstore in downtown Prescott. Barnes and Noble had exited the Prescott Gateway Mall, and Hastings, where yours truly worked once upon a time, is in the process of going out of business. There are a few used bookstores in the community, but they’re small holes in the wall, whereas Peregrine sticks out to anyone roaming the downtown sidewalks.
Instead of the stickers and pre-fabricated signs indicating whether you were looking at lesbian erotica or Guatemalan spirituality, they’re handwritten signs above the shelves and written directly on the shelves themselves about how they’re alphabetized, etc. One thing I should point out is that there were a couple of shelves that were hard for even me to reach. That’s actually a good thing, when the shelves are stacked, floor to ceiling, with books.
The local authors are tucked away in a front corner of the store, and there is a huge area of graphic novels and comic books for all the geeks who love their superheroes. I didn’t see an area specifically for gay and lesbian literature, but I’m hoping they just integrate it with whatever genre they belong with (mystery, romance, sci-fi).
Peregrine also holds regular events like game nights and author visits. In a back corner is a podium, and there are some little displays that look like they could be moved out of the way to accommodate chairs. They have activities on a weekly basis, many of them on a Saturday, which is a good way to bring people out. For some folks, it’s not always enough just to read the books. It’s necessary sometimes to interact with the writers and find out what motivates the stories.
I wound up leaving with two books—after almost two hours of browsing. I could have left with more, but that would have blown my vacation budget straight to hell. Also, getting ticketed for parking past the two-hour limit would totally ruin my holiday.
One was a collection of essays called It Gets Worse by Shane Dawson. The other is a book by Martin Windrow called The Owl Who Sat on Caesar, which tells about the author getting an unlikely pet in an owl.
Here’s what Ty Fitzmorris, the founder of Peregrine Book Company, said recently in the local newspaper, The Daily Courier, when asked why he opened a bookstore:
“I’m a lifelong bibliophile. I’ve been frequenting independent bookstores for my entire adult life and then some. I’m a fanatic about books. I’ve had to do a little reinforcement to the pillars that my house stands on because of my book collection. I’ve even built a new building to house books, so it’s bad.
“Also, I think that the process that I started with the Raven (a local café), I was trying to contribute intentionally to the meaning of progressive development of the community and then I thought, we don’t have a bookstore, and those are pillars. They are far more central to how communities work. They are cornerstones of a community.”
He’s right. Bookstores are vital to a community because books provide knowledge. All too often, we see people, many of them leaders, come off as illiterate, and I sometimes wonder how they’d change if you locked them in a bookstore and didn’t let them out until they discovered the error of their ways in some book.
In the meantime, it’s good to know that there is at least one shining beacon where book lovers can frequent to access gateways to amazing worlds. I hope Peregrine is there to stay in Prescott.