By Eric Greiling/For the Auburn Reporter
Again, and for what seems like the tenth weekend in a row. However, my cheery demeanor betrays a secret anticipation that this evening will be wonderful. A pot of soup wafts a savory splendor throughout the house, and a fire blazes against the chill of a blustery day. Best of all, I have an enticing novel to pick up and settle in with.
Crouched on the corner of Auburn Way and Main Street, Comstock’s Bookshop is a welcome throwback to a quieter time. Teeming with more than 100,000 titles, it offers a those with an inquisitive nature and some time on their hands the opportunity to spend literally hours prowling the shelves of entertainment, mystery and imagination.
Since 1984, owner Anita Comstock has made Auburn her home. With her partner David’s recent passing, Anita closed a bookbinding service adjacent to the bookstore. Anita notes that business was robust until about 2000, when Kindle and similar electronic books as well as online competitors began to cut into Comstock’s market share.
Although a Forbes study in 2014 found a 50 percent decrease in print book sales, a PBS Newsletter 2014 survey indicated that 70 percent of Americans prefer print books to electronic. The average adult reads five books per year, according to a Princeton Survey Research Associates study.
So, what of the book? In addition to the many built-in advantages of a printed volume, people in various studies identified the weight of a book as a particular plus. When one finishes a book, it becomes a trophy of sorts. An electronic version simply goes away.
And the independent bookstore? Browsing, taking in the welcome smell of used volumes and the comforting feeling of supporting local business are among the visceral benefits versus big-box or online shopping. Comstock’s section of collectible volumes and complete sets add to the intrigue awaiting their clients.
Literary critic Joe Queenan observes “(Books are) for people engaged in an intense, lifelong love affair with books; books we can touch; books that we can smell; books we can depend on.”
I went to Comstock’s Bookshop earlier in the day to seek a new treasure. Heat from the fireplace envelopes the room. I tear a generous chunk of bread to dip in my soup. It is still raining outside. I open the front cover toward chapter 1. It will be a wonderful evening.