Friday, September 16, 2011

Shakespeare, Starbucks and Chanel

Ahhh…books, bookmarks, and coffee. And chocolate. What more could a girl ask for.

I walked into Chapters bookstore in Victoria, BC, and as always, the smell enveloped me. After a lengthy absence from the store – summer vacations and all that - the smell of books, paper, and coffee from the Starbucks© coffee shop upstairs was like walking into a familiar home. Everyone’s home has its own scent.

I stopped the manager, Vanessa, and with my usual disclaimer of ‘I know this is a weird question, but I am not really weird,’ I asked her if anyone has ever mentioned the smell to her – but in a good way. She said customers mention it all the time, many saying they find it comforting. Every bookstore has its own scent, she says; whether be stores with new books or used.

Basking in the glory of the books, I browsed, grabbed a bookmark because I am addicted to them, and then made my way towards the door. But a wall, floor to ceiling, heralding e-readers and fancy leather cases, loomed before me.

That wasn’t there a few weeks ago. I stumbled around, disoriented with my routine thrown off. Ah, I reminded myself, times are a changin'.

Bookstores are closing, and more often than not, new books by favoured authors can only be found online, for purchase and download to your e-reader.

But if all bookstores close, what will I smell? And if all bookstores go, books will become passé – although I doubt that in my lifetime all books will not become passé – and what will I frolick in?

I THEN realized, horrified, as I made my way out the door to the busy street - What will become of bookmarks?!

I love bookmarks, collecting them from bookstores and authors – the signed ones don’t get used. In a pinch I have used a sticky note or BC Ferry receipt. I treat my books, new or used, like gold, refusing to crack the spine or dog-ear the pages. And of course, savouring the smell of the pages.

As car and bus exhaust replaced the intoxicating smell of the bookstore, I realized – book marks will become passé, eventually, as well. Extinct will be the tassels, the clips, the old receipts – even those crocheted worm bookmarks big in the 70’s (I know how to make them if you want one). I know e-readers have their own ‘bookmark’ feature, but like many avid readers who love the concept of paper in hand, many also love a good bookmark.

Saddened by the state of what was potentially yet to come, my world as I knew it was slowly unravelling like a crocheted bookmark right before my eyes. As I was on lunch, I made my way to a bench, to calm down and read, before heading back to work.

I dug my book out of my purse and flicked to the spot my bookmark was holding for me. In all my worry about eventually only having the memory of the smell of a bookstore to get me by, never mind paper books becoming a rarity and their bookmarks becoming artifacts in a museum, I realized….


The bookmark du jour was a perfume card sample from the department store - this one, Chanel©.

Because I liked the smell.

Go figure.


  1. Lisa - That's exactly it isn't it - that smell. And the excitement of discovering a great new read. I love the smell of a bookstore and second-hand bookstores even more. There's such history there and books you'd never find in e-copy. New books or old - I love a book in hand even more than my e-reader. I think I always will.

  2. Same here, Ryshia. Reading books on a screen just isnt the same as a paperback in your hand...and the screens don't smell - oh wait, maybe 'they' will invent that one day...Thank you for reading! Lisa