On Browsing

On Browsing coverOn Browsing (Field Notes Book 5)
Jason Guriel
Biblioasis (October 4, 2022), 106 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $12.99

I enjoyed the previous book I read from the small Canadian publisher Biblioasis, A Factotum of the Book Trade, so I was looking forward to reading On Browsing. I was disappointed.

I’m very much a high-tech guy. I read all my books on my Kindle app (iPhone and iPad) these days. I listen to audiobooks using the Audible app on my iPhone. But I remember an earlier era, and I remember it fondly.

I spent seven years of my life in the book business. Physical books. Hardcover and paperback. I worked for B. Dalton Bookseller, opening one new store and managing two others. I even returned for a penitential stint a few years later. I was a regular customer at various used bookstores in the different places I lived. I even learned the routine of the mail order used book business: you gave them the title of the book you wanted and if they were able to find it for you, you sent them a check.

So I expected On Browsing to be a pleasant return to that world. And indeed author Jason Guriel writes about browsing now defunct bookstores in his native Canada. He describes wandering the aisles at Blockbuster Video (yes, Canada had the chain too), first for VHS and then DVD. He writes about stores that sold and bought music CDs. All of that was marvelous.

But there is a big chunk in the middle of the book in which the author digresses into a science fiction view of cyberspace, decades before the advent of the internet. That segued into a discussion of the internet as we know it.

Guriel ends the book with a reflection of browsing Netflix. Not the same as browsing your local Blockbuster, or better, your neighborhood independently owned video store.

I was looking for a throwback, for some memories. I got some of that, but I got too much of today’s technology. That’s not what I came to this book for.

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