Sunday Book-Thought 86

This brief history is intended to show some of the ways in which so-called big-box bookstores emerge within, respond to, and partially transform the specific local and regional contexts – the senses of place – of which they are a part. It would be easy to read Barnes & Noble’s opening at New Hope Commons as symptomatic of the ‘malling’ of America and thus of the growing dominance of national chains. At some level it probably is. Yet the store’s presence there also needs to be recognized as an important engine of economic development for the city of Durham and, more specifically, as a strategy for redistributing the area’s wealth. It is but one facet of a much larger struggle to redress socioeconomic and racial disparities, whose origins extend back to well before the Civil War. Efforts to resist the building of the shopping center were equally complex. Protesters certainly responded to real concerns – especially environmental ones – about the mall’s location and construction. By the same token, the desire to resist the spread of national chains in the area, particularly among some Chapel Hill residents, could also be construed as an indirect way of preserving the area’s existing distribution of wealth and racial privilege. This isn’t to say that building more malls is the correct path to development, nor the best way to combat economic and racial inequality. The protests, however, do raise two interrelated questions: Why do certain communities have the privilege of not opening big-box bookstores? Under what historical conditions do communities choose to accept or reject those stores?
Ted Striphas, The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 77.


Sunday Book-Thought 72

Writing turned a spotlight on the high, dim Sierras of speech; writing was the visualization of acoustic space. It lit up the dark.
A good quill put an end to talk, abolished mystery, gave us enclosed space and towns, brought roads and armies and bureaucracies. It was the basic metaphor with which the cycle of CIVILIZATION began, the step from the dark into the light of the mind. The hand that filled a paper built a city.
The handwriting is on the celluloid walls of Hollywood; the Age of Writing has passed. We must invent a NEW METAPHOR, restructure our thoughts and feelings. The new media are not bridges between man and nature: they are nature.
The MECHANIZATION of writing mechanized the visual-acoustic metaphor on which civilization rests; it created the classroom and mass education, the modern press and telegraph. It was the original assembly-line. Gutenberg made all history available as classified data: the transportable book brought the world of the dead into the space of the gentleman’s library; the telegraph brought the entire world of the living to the workman’s breakfast table.
Marshall McLuhan (designed by Harley Parker), Counterblast (London: Rapp & Whiting, 1969), pp. 14-15.