Books-A-Million.  Amazon. Kindles. 

These are all places to buy “books”. You can walk in or log in and purchase whatever you want to read with ever increasing simplicity. In a culture that I feel does not read enough, I should be happy to see it become easier for people to access what they want to read in any medium they enjoy. 

I have to be honest though and admit that I see these places and technological “advances” as nothing less than a total affront to book reading. 

Reading a book is more to me than just the words. The words are the deal breaker, but the experience is in the packaging. There is something about the way a book fits in your hands… the way it smells… the sound of the pages as they turn… the way a used book seems wiser, or at least more experienced, than a new one…
It is called “reading a book” for a reason. It is not “reading a collection of words” or “reading a file”. It is reading a book.

If any part of you agrees with me on any of these “book purist values” than you need to visit McDowell’s Emporium. 

I live in a town that does not have a lot of book stores. There was a time in my life when I would spend a week’s worth of lunch hours visiting different book stores every day. Now that I live in a smaller town my options are more limited, to say the least. There are a few bookstore gems hiding around the Upstate but I am happy to say that the best of these is three blocks from my home. Quality book stores do not get much better than that. 

I live in an old neighborhood. My home is at least 65 years old and is middle-aged for the homes on the blocks that surround me. McDowell’s is just another house in my neighborhood, but its unique feature is that it has been converted into a bookstore. By converted, I mean that you walk into an old house that has no discernable living- or bed- rooms because every inch of wall space has a book shelf against it. This is not an old house converted into a book store – this is a Book Home.
The aroma when you walk in is the first part of the McDowell’s experience. The smell of an old book is distinct and indescribable and will be never be replaced my any technological advance. This scent hits your nose as soon you walk through the door and engulfs you as you make your way through the store.

You wander the aisles. You slide from room-to-room trying to discern the categorical system. You look for books and authors you might want to read but inevitably you find authors you forgot about and books you never heard of. You leave, not with profound success of a mission accomplished, but with the feeling of a kid on Christmas Day that opened up the present that you never knew you wanted.

This is the experience of a used book store.

I would rather walk into McDowell’s and buy a book I did not know I wanted than go into a mega-store for a new release from one of my favorite authors. Visiting a used book store is like going on a treasure hunt that I know I am going to win. I walk in with only a vague idea of what I am looking for and leave with something that I cannot wait to read.  

Last week it was a Norman Mailer book for me and a ten-cent children’s book that Ivan picked out. We both saw things we plan on picking up “next time” but inevitably we will forget what they were and begin our search all over again. I cannot wait to see what new treasures await.

McDowells Emporium’s business card brags that it has been “feeding bookworms since 1988”. I am honored to have them feed me.