Bookstores are different than other stores — they are a place for meeting, browsing and reflecting. You bump into friends and neighbors, and see a book on the shelf you might never have crossed paths with before. They are cool hang-outs where the staff knows something about literature, the manager selects each title with care, and patrons sit around drinking their coffee debating over the latest buzzed about book. Thanks to independent bookshops, high-quality but inaccessible books build their reputations through reader word-of-mouth and eventually take the literary world by storm. But they are an endangered species. When it comes to providing simple access to the products you want, the online behemoth Amazon often does a better job of it than the small stores do: they can negotiate bigger discounts from publishers and have superior computer-driven inventory systems. Their systems allows them to stock many more titles than do most of the independents, so if you’re looking for a book on Arabic poetry or Cross-Stitch you have a better chance of finding it at Barnes & Noble or Amazon then your local community bookstore.
The rise of e-books is, of course, an existential challenge to booksellers of all sizes. We decide not to carry them here, but I understand their charms. There is an ease to carrying dozens of books on your iPad when you travel. But don’t you also love the look and feel of a book-lined room? Don’t you like to feel the heft of a book when you take it off the shelf, see its title and spine lined up along others, signifying different stages of your life, with different opinions and experiences lying within those pages? There is a satisfaction in that balance.
The digital world shrinks distance, allowing for instant gratification, but it does not exist in the physical world. There is something comforting about the well-intentioned chaos of a real bookstore, the warmth that comes with human dimensions. And when we lose a sense of that value, we start to lose a sense of ourselves. Think of the movement of the independent bookstore to be akin to the slow food movement. It isn’t faster or more efficient. But it is better. It offers time to appreciate rather than to consume.
At Wellington Square Bookshop, we try to provide that unique experience. Not only are we booksellers — we are retailers, event hostesses and baristas. You might have to wait a bit for your cappuccino as we discuss a book recommendation to another customer, or you might have to muster patience as we work out our crazy computer inventory system or search the shelves for that book we are most certain we have on our quirkily organized shelves. To find the book you want, you might have to stoop or stretch to slightly uncomfortable levels. You might have to use a stool or library ladder to peruse the books randomly, but when you do — you might just find that hidden treasure in someone else’s discard pile. The art of browsing, treasure hunting — revel in it.
Wellington Square Bookshop is lucky to have a gracious landlord, The Hankin Group that provides us help and assistance that other booksellers lack and through their love of community and books that our customers experience the magic of our “little shop around the corner”. But it is not our duty — it is yours. It’s your bookstore. It is your community. Help Wellington Square Bookshop survive on its own and when you see the owner thank him — and buy a book.
Ryann Wickersham Manager, Wellington Square Bookshop
610.458.1144 WellingtonSquareBooks.com 549 Wellington Square | Exton, PA 19341 Eagleview Town Center