With the demise of bookstores these days, I feel like our society is losing more than just brick-and-mortar stores. We’re losing the sense of shame that always accompanied buying shitty books from bookstore clerks who bagged our latest beach read, clearly thinking less of us as people for our pedestrian taste in literature. Yes, we’re losing the sense of embarrassment that was forced upon us when we admitted we wanted to exchange “Anna Karenina” (even though it was recommended by Oprah’s Book Club) for the newest schmaltz from Nicholas Sparks. We’ve lost all of that.
Today’s reading world has no shame. It’s a little reminiscent of the difference between buying porn wrapped in black plastic from a teenager at a mall and anonymously downloading your preference of perversions on a broadband internet connection. Digital media makes all our guilty pleasures much more private, because there’s never anyone behind the counter looking us in the eye with a smirk, a sigh of disgust, or the unmistakable glare of utter disappointment in humanity. Sad middle-aged women don’t have to cover their ridiculous bodice-ripper romance novels with home-made book covers or pretend that making book covers at home is a hobby.
That world is gone. It ended when we could buy things online, alone by the light of our computer screens. And now with ebooks, no one can tell what we’re reading even when we’re reading it, no black plastic or home-made book cover required.
I, for one, miss shame. I miss it because that angry bookshop clerk who cringes a little when asked about where to find the latest Gossip Girl and grinds her teeth when you thank her for her help—she’s me, and she’s not sorry.
In fact, she’s writing for the Unbound Underground.
Why? Because being fair, respectful, and objective about books is boring, and the reviewers of the Underground have no intention of ever being anything but boring or “useful to readers” as they like to call it.
But all that is their problem.
I’m here for something entirely different.
People like to say that independently published books are the ones that didn’t deserve a publishing contract. I’m not going to argue that point one way or the other, but I will say that there are a lot of best-selling books that didn’t deserve to be published either, and those are the books I’ll be talking about.
Because, for god’s sake, someone has to.