For as long as I can remember, I have loved to read. I tried to instill the same feelings in my grandchildren by really hamming it up and using weird voices for different characters when I read their favorite books to them. I’m not sure who was having more fun, Grammy or the children, but I loved every minute of it.

I don’t think the same effect could have been achieved by cuddling up with the little ones and peering into the blue light of an e reader, I pad or I phone instead of an actual hands on, turn the real pages book. However, Kindles, Nooks and other electronic readers seem to be taking the reading world by storm. Not to be left behind, I bought a Kindle a few years ago and have since loaded it with dozens, if not hundreds of e books, most of them free or at a very minimal cost. It is convenient to be able to carry an entire bookshelf full of books in one small device, especially when traveling. I also like the “instant dictionary” feature, where you touch any unfamiliar word on the page you are reading, and the dictionary entry for it pops up. All of my Kindle books are also on my I Phone, but after reading a 650 page book on the phone screen when my Kindle was on loan to a friend, I found that I won’t be in a hurry to do that again!

It turns out that some studies have been done concerning the use of e readers and tablets versus traditional books. They have found that exposure to that blue light on an e reader’s glowing screen before bed can make it harder to fall asleep and snooze soundly, something I’ve found to be true. Also, what I didn’t know was that people who use e readers had a much harder time remembering story details compared with those who read a printed version. Holding the book, turning the pages and touching the paper may contribute to better reconstruction of the book’s plot. True enough, e readers reduce usage of paper and ink and cut transportation costs, but it turns out that, in the long run, e readers use quite a lot of materials in the manufacturing process, and are also costly to dispose of when something newer comes along.

I have learned that there are other drawbacks to all this wonderful technology, not the least of which is the closure of more than a thousand bookstores in the period from 2000 to 2007, with many more of them hanging on only by a thread. To me, wandering through row after row of books, searching for the newest release from a favorite author or sitting down in a comfy chair or sofa to peruse a book on photography or travel is a delightful way to spend an afternoon. I could find the same things on monster marketer Amazon, I suppose, but sometimes I just like to browse in a real bookstore.

That’s just what I did at a Barnes and Noble recently, and I discovered that they carry so much more than books, and this just may be their key to survival. Godiva chocolates, journals and stationery, brand name purses, art supplies, stuffed animals, science and gardening kits for kids, a huge inventory of Legos, family games, CD’s, DVD’s and even vinyl records, which must be making some kind of a comeback, are just some of what you’ll find in the bookstore. And that doesn’t include the assortment of sandwiches, giant cookies and muffins as well as gourmet teas and coffees in the café that’s in the corner of the store. Everything seems to be designed to keep you comfy and encourage you to stay longer.

I‘ve been reading about the oldest continuously running bookstore in the country, Moravian Book Shop in Bethlehem, PA, and wondering how they’re faring. Well, they’ve taken the term diversification to a whole new level. Their Christmas store alone dwarfs the book section, which might be expected in a town named Bethlehem! Star of Bethlehem items of every description line the shelves, but add to all that a deli, café, homemade candy counter, home décor and a complete women’s boutique, not to mention fireworks around the Fourth of July! Good grief! Sounds like Walmart instead of a bookstore! Then I’ve also read about stores that have books and brews, which feature a bookstore/bar. I guess it’s a good combination if that’s your pleasure. Bookstores have had to become very creative to survive!

After talking to Vicky at Bradley Books in the local Mall, I found that she also believes that branching out and offering things like author book signings and book clubs can increase traffic in the store, and hopefully increase sales as well. Vicky also mentioned that a well-read and knowledgeable sales staff is essential, and she won’t even consider hiring anyone who isn’t an avid reader. So often, an appropriate suggestion by a helpful salesperson can lead to a sale.

I suppose it should have come as no surprise that CBS News reported recently that Americans are actually reading a lot less these days, maybe in part because of the hours they spend watching TV or doing other things on computers or iPads. Also, Huffington Post reports that 28% of Americans have not read a single book in the past year. That is pretty shocking to a bookworm like me who is usually reading two or three books at one time, in addition to listening to an audiobook in the car when I travel. I can’t imagine my world without great books to read!

There’s no doubt that e Readers, I Pads and I Phones have changed the world of reading dramatically, and while I have them, I still feel more comfortable with a good old fashioned book in my hand.

“The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I haven’t read.” Abraham Lincoln

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