A few years back, my dream was to save some money and visit a particular bookstore in Accra. Books in that store were cheap. They were books that have been shipped into the country, fairly new. They could be described as second hand books(people buy them new, they read and re-sell them overseas, and they are shipped into the country). But strangely enough, I was unable to raise that money, so I never visited that shop.
Recently, I visited that bookstore. It was with mixed feelings of nostalgia and high expectations; I was fulfilling a childhood dream and desire. With smiles, I entered the store in anticipation. I imagined finding books on different subjects and at cheaper prices.
I was rather thrown aback when I entered and found the shop rather empty of both books and customers. The only person in-sight was an attendant reading a Bible. I looked round the shop and saw some old dusty books on the left side, a long mirror right ahead of me and to my right, were some paintings hanging on the wall. I found this weird; what are these rather unusual paintings doing in the bookstore? I decided to engage the bookstore attendant in an informal interview. First, what are these paintings doing in the bookstore?
His response was,” They are not odd, you only have to read the inscriptions and you may like them.” I took a closer look at the paintings and I still found them strange. I told the attendant about my childhood desire and the expectations I had earlier. And to that, he replied,” Very soon, this bookstore will be no more.” I was awed, I looked on, while he explained. “The book selling business has become slow. They are not being bought at a fast rate. Now, people have turned to computers and tablets. They just get on the internet and they have whatever they need. They prefer that to reading from books” He said,” We are going to use this space for something else; for a more vibrant business, something which will move faster.” He added.
The bookstore attendant succeeded in putting me in a reflective mode. I remembered the Amazon kindlefire I had in my bag. The result of my new possession is the disinterest in visiting bookstores like I used to. I remember one particular habit I picked up from a friend which was quite useful. Visit the bookstore not necessarily to buy the book, but to read a few of the pages of the book you wish to possess. This habit takes you to the bookstore almost everyday; you keep going there till you finish reading the book, without buying it. Now, instead of bookstores, I search for WiFi spots where I can assess internet to download books, mostly for free. I started observing public spaces and at events, and I realized, maybe in a few years time, books will be extinct. People are now using more sophisticated means of storing books and taking notes. No wonder book shops are closing down. I started asking myself these questions, “Are we going to find hard copies of books in say, five decades from now? What were your favorite childhood books? Will they still be available in some time to come?’