Things change. We all know that. And sometimes even good changes — the increasing digitalization of our culture; the ability of the Internet to distribute content on demand — have sad, if inevitable consequences.
Here’s one: Cody’s Bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is closing.
For those who don’t know, Cody’s was one of those huge independent bookstores that seemed to have everything, back before we know how much everything actually was.
When I was living in the Bay Area in the 1990s, we would trundle off to Telegraph Ave and hit Cody’s and Amoeba Music — which was, awesomely, right across the street — on a pretty regular basis. However, as the years went by, that basis became pretty irregular. Which was part of the problem for Codys: even people who enjoyed going there weren’t going there as often.
Ross [Cody’s owner] said the store had been losing money for 15 years and that pressure from chain stores and the Internet had contributed to an “economic concentration in bookselling” that was forcing out independent stores like Cody’s.
Now, I haven’t lived in the Bay Area for years, so the odds were that I was never actually going to step foot in Cody’s ever again, except for possibly on vacation. And perhaps not even then, since Telegraph Ave doesn’t hold the same appeal for me as it did back in the day. Which is all on me, not Telegraph.
These days, I already have more books than I can possibly read in my lifetime — which isn’t so much bragging as an admission of bad planning — and so my book-shopping is usually pretty targeted: go to Amazon or the nearby Barnes and Noble and grab something that I’ve decided that I simply must have.
So, as you can see, I have contributed to the demise of bookstores like Cody’s as much as anybody, so this isn’t another rant about the end of the indie bookstore — hell, they were losing money before Amazon, and lord knows that I have nothing to say about the overall homogenization of America that zillions of others haven’t said and won’t say better.
So, just this: I will always have fond memories of spending — never wasting — much time wandering Cody’s stacks, looking for the perfect serendiptious find. Which I often did. So I’m glad for the fact that Cody’s was around as long as it was, and I got to do that back when I had the time and inclination to do so.
But things change.