The lost art of browsing

Browsing, by its very definition, should be leisurely and enjoyable in and of itself.

The act of browsing can indeed be an end in itself, occasionally highlighted and augmented by the discovery of something new and interesting.

One of my fondest memories of my adolescence was taking the #135 Public Service bus from my home in northern New Jersey into New York City.

My friends (including my future wife!) and I loved the freedom of being in the big city by ourselves. Our adventures would always vary, except for one mandatory item that we always did - visit the Brentano's anchor store on Fifth Avenue.

Brentano's, in the mid-1960's, was already over 100 years old and a bookstore institution in the New York metropolitan area. We would spend hours browsing the shelves of the vast, multi-story bookstore.

We rarely went in with a list of books we were looking for but we always came out with bags of books that we discovered while we were there.

Sadly, Brentano's was acquired by Waldenbooks, which was acquired by Borders, which went out of business.

And, sadly, browsing through retail stores, bookstores as well as other kinds of stores, is becoming a lost art.

The word "browsing" has been co-opted by our computers and the internet - we "browse" with our "browser." No longer leisurely, browsing has become a race against time - the faster the better.

Browsing is no longer a journey to be enjoyed, but the fastest way to get from one place to another without getting out of our chairs.

Statistics for retail bookstores tell us that 60 percent of the purchases made in brick-and-mortar stores are discoveries made while in the bookstore, while browsing the shelves for the unknown as well as the known.

This is especially true for independent (non-chain) bookstores, who tend to offer an interesting and unique selection of books, many of which are not carried by the chains or easily found on the internet.

So, this holiday season, treat yourself to the small luxury of browsing. Come browse in our store as well as so many others in Sedona and the Verde Valley, each interesting and unique in their own right. You just might be surprised at what you find.

Happy Holidays!

Joe Neri is the co-owner of The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona. He can be contacted at (928) 282-2284 or books@wellredcoyote.com.)

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