Completely lost in reading a great book, I've missed my BART stop. I've been known to turn down lunch invitations, saying I already had plans (never mind that they were with recurring characters like Jack Reacher, Elvis Cole, Sean Drummond, Myron Bolitar or Kinsey Millhone). And I've stayed up way too late reading, knowing I'd have to pay the price of sleep deprivation the next day.
But are physical books becoming obsolete, along with the demise of book stores like Borders? I hope not. I'm a self-confessed book store-aholic; can't pass by one without wanting to go in and browse the shelves for favorite authors or the latest bestseller. Sure, electronic books are becoming more and more popular, but for me there's nothing like holding a real book and feeling the pages as I turn them.
Last week I chatted with Michael Barnard, the proprietor of Rakestraw Books in Danville. The bookstore moved at the end of October from the old San Ramon Valley Times building into the store next door at 550 Hartz Ave. Although somewhat smaller now, it's nicely laid out with wooden cases packed with books and table displays of featured titles. I asked Michael how the bookstore industry has changed with the advent of e-books.
"The trend to e-books, like any new segment, initially grew very quickly, starting from zero, but in the last year it's growing less quickly and ultimately it will just be another format, like audio books are just a format," he said. "I spend an awful lot of my day staring at a computer screen already. I've read a couple of e-books and found I left what I was doing more frequently than a book. I still prefer books."
He said performance pieces, or audio books, have transitioned from the original vinyl medium, which contained mainly children's books or condensed stories, to books on tape, and now CDs.
"Books on CD changed things because the cost of things came down," Michael said, "but there are still significant costs in recording and performing. They've kind of settled because it's a different experience than reading."
Michael grew up in Pleasant Hill and now lives in Berkeley. He graduated from UC Davis and got a master's degree from Northwestern University. After he completed an intensive course at The Publishing Institute in Denver, he decided to go into book selling and, at the tender age of 25, purchased Rakestraw Books from the original owners in 1995.
Rakestraw Books opened for business on April 1, 1973, nearly 40 years ago. When I moved to Danville in 1985, the store was in the Livery & Mercantile. From there, it relocated to the then-new shopping center near what's now Lunardi's, before settling on Hartz.
Rakestraw frequently brings in authors to discuss their latest books. Coming up is an evening with the Rev. Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani, presenting "Beyond the Change: 50 Years of Creating Radical Change at a Community Called Glide" at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Danville Congregational Church, 989 San Ramon Valley Blvd.
The schedule includes best-selling novelists Joyce Carol Oates on March 15 and Alexander McCall Smith, author of the Ladies Detective Agency series, on April 14.
E-books are here to stay, and Rakestraw Books is marketing them beginning Friday, along with kobo e-readers. For more information, including book group details and additional featured speakers, go to http://www.rakestrawbooks.com/.
It actually made me feel better about my own mishap in missing my BART stop when Michael confessed that he, too, has been so absorbed in a book that he has missed something important. In his case, it was his flight from Amsterdam to Milan. He was sitting at the wrong gate and, although the airline paged him, he didn't hear it.
Now that's a fellow book lover!
Contact Georgia Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org.