Not sure about the somewhat, um…provocative photo accompanying this story, but there’s a lot of truth in what John Sturgis says. Browsing in a book or record store is so much more rewarding than ordering exactly what you want whenever you want it.
“So much time in one’s cultural life before the digital revolution,” he writes, “was spent physically flipping through things: racks of records, CDs, VHS cassettes, DVDs and books. And the very act of doing that would set mental hares running: you’d come away with the fresh desire to watch or listen or read something new. Or something old.”
Don’t get me wrong: I love how just a few taps on my phone will result in an obscure, out-of-print, or just plain hard-to-find book or album landing in my mailbox days later. But I’m not discovering anything in the process. There are no surprises; no “cultural detours” along the way.
Not too long ago, in fact, I was browsing at Go! Records up on Garland, searching for 70s and 80s ECM titles to add to my collection, and walked out with Silver Apples’ debut album and the Electric Prunes’ Release of an Oath—neither of which was even on my radar. And it was glorious.
I know, I know. There’s a distinct “back in my day” vibe to this post. But I really do think we’ve lost something in the mad dash toward the future.