According to rumour, there's a rough beast slouching toward Whyte Avenue's Greenwoods' Bookshoppe - permanent closure.
I was a regular customer at Greenwood's from 1987 until 1999 or so, but my visits grew less and less frequent over the years. It wasn't a conscious choice; I simply moved out of the neighbourhood. I shopped more frequently at Audrey's for a while, and then, after a few months' resistance, I found myself at Chapters more and more often. A few more years have passed and I've found that I purchase books online about 25 percent of the time, especially when I know what I'm looking for and physical bookstores can't or won't carry the often obscure titles I desire.
No one except the Greenwoods knows for sure, but it's easy to surmise that Amazon and other online vendors have contributed to the bookshoppe's pending closure. So this morning, burdened by guilt, I parked at the west end of Whyte Avenue today and took a long penitent walk east to Greenwoods'. There were only two people in the store when I arrived - both staff - and scarcely greater numbers of books. Most of the shelves have been laid bare, and posters declare "All books 50% off - All sales final."
I took a moment to wander up and down the aisles, but there wasn't much to see; just row upon row of empty wooden shelves, shelves that were once crammed to bursting with all manner of literary riches. I remembered all the happy hours I'd spent in the original location next to the Princess Theatre, times when I'd accompany university buddies to catch a show and then pick up some books, or vice versa. After graduation I struggled to find a job in my chosen field and wound up driving a parts truck around the city. I was depressed by the rote nature of the work and the abuse I often endured from a number of my customers, but every Wednesday afternoon I had one escape: I stopped at Warp One to pick up my week's supply of comic books, then crossed the back alley to the back door of Greenwoods' to browse for books. That weekly pleasure never failed to reinvigorate me.
Despite my ability to find all the books I've ever wanted online, I still lament the loss of Greenwoods'. Amazon and other online vendors are wonderful if and only if you already know what you're looking for. But they can't replicate the experience of browsing through the shelves and finding something new and wonderful via serendipity. I estimate fully half the books in my collection were discovered this way.
Now there's one last place to browse, and Edmonton is poorer for the loss. All these thoughts flashed through my mind as I handed over the one book remaining at Greenwoods' to catch my interest: Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom. I'd never heard of the book before the lurid cover caught my eye on one of those near-empty shelves. One last escape, courtesy of a business that's been a portal to wonder for over thirty years.
Thanks, Greenwoods'. I won't forget you.