Contemplating the goings-on in New York this weekend, my memory turns back to one of my favorite past-times during that event: shopping for books. A trip to the Mysterious Bookshop, Murder Ink, the Strand bookstore . . . one inevitably came home with a mass of books, some even having large boxes shipped to save transporting them on their flights.
But that was another time, before Amazon and alibris, before e-books and Kindles.
New books from small presses like Gasogene Books or BSJ Publishing get debuted on Holmes's birthday weekend in NYC, to be sure, but buying them there isn't a rare opportunity as it once might have been.
The world of books and how we interact with them is changing, no news to anybody, but it will be especially interesting to see how those changes affect the Sherlockian landscape over time. Or if they will.
A hobby with roots in the Victorian era, where emulating a certain Victorian sitting room's furnishings is common, will probably embraced the printed book long after mainstream society lets it go. And the very core of Sherlock Holmes fandom will never be so large a number that a small print run of specialty books made just for the pleasure of holding them in one's hands as Holmes and Watson did won't be a suitable celebration of the two.
I am not, at this point in my life, one of those naive souls who proclaims, "One can never have too many books!" One can, especially in an age where the big book sellers will market crap books that are only printed for someone to buy as a gift for someone else -- not to actually be read. Or faddish books that pop up and go out of fancy almost immediately -- will anyone give two shakes about "Duck Dynasty" in ten years, or even two? Not enough to read a book on the subject. Local used book sales seem to end with more and more books unable to find a home, every single year.
There are those sorts of books that will do well as an e-book. Ephemeral things of the moment, catching readers at a flare-up of interest and then going away. Thanks to e-books, we won't have to fill dumpsters or landfills with the waste by-products of moving thoughts from head to head if those thoughts aren't worth everyone holding a personal reference copy.
Sherlock Holmes, however, has proven his worth over time, and how having just that right old book on the shelf to pull down can be a joyous exercise. Were we a part of a more profitable past-time, all of our lore might be on the internet for a quick Google search, but it's not . . . at least not yet. If Sherlock keeps working its magic, who knows?
But for now, Sherlockian book-love abides.
And, luckily, nobody was headed for New York just for the books, after all, were they?