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Editor’s Note

On the cover: "Timberline Fantasy" by Vance Kirkland. Egg tempera on gesso panel, 1948. Courtsy of the Kirkland Museum Collection.

Growing up in the then-small farming community of Montrose, Colo., I looked forward to our family’s frequent visits to a local used bookstore.

Actually, “bookstore” might be making too much of it. The “store” was actually a well-worn singlewide trailer that, oddly, also sold propane.

I was a voracious reader in my youth, but as I now read for a living, it’s harder to make time for recreational reading. Still, I usually have several books going; my current pile includes a translation of the Gospel of Thomas and Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Apparently, regular readers like me are a dying breed. According to this issue’s article “Bye Bye, Bookstore,” Americans are reading less and less, and independent booksellers are in decline as well.

That frightens some of us bookworms. But as Tattered Cover Bookstore owner Joyce Meskis reminded me the other day, it’s too soon to sound the death knell on the independent bookstore. The business has never been easy, and, she says, “There is still a lot of really excellent book selling going on.” The business has experienced times of renaissance and times of recession. This is one of the latter.

Still, I wonder if we can really bounce back from a reading recession — whether books can compete with “American Idol” and YouTube for America’s attention. Can my reading habits and buying choices make a difference? Can yours?

Meskis thinks so. She reminded me that one can have a book — to read and keep and treasure and read again — for the price of one night at the movies. Books, no matter where they’re purchased, are a value, she argues.

Still, I admit to bypassing the pricier local independents to buy books from online retailers and big box stores, where I purchased the books on my current reading stack.

Is that a bad thing? You tell me.

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