Monday, June 17, 2013

Penguin's Pushcart

While reading recently about the Book Expo of America, I came upon a news item about the Penguin Group's old-fashioned, print-only Book Truck and Pushcart, a mobile store scheduled to travel the Route 66 journey made famous in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" (one of my all-time favorite novels) and partly-inspired by New York's classic hotdog carts.  I found this notion wholely delightful, and very much in line with the strange dichotomy our modern world seems to be embracing - high-tech digital wonderment on one hand, low-tech retro small-business on the other.  

I must admit this dichotomy makes me unreasonably happy.  Maybe it's because I live in Portland.  The old-fashioned traveling bookstore notion represented by Penguin's Book Truck falls right in line with the locally-sourced movement of restaurants and the movement towards repairing over replacing in the realm of other products, not to mention the food cart revolution that has allowed small business restaurateurs a fiscally low-risk entry-point.  E-books seem to have dealt a serious blow to big name publishing houses and bookstores, but the indies are thriving, and benefitting from the access to technology such as print-on-demand.  With their pushcart/book truck idea, Penguin appears to be engaging in competition on indie terms.  

We humans seem hell-bent on finding ways to keep our humble, simple humanity, community and craftsmanship intact even as we catapult ourselves through cyberspace.  I say this cycling back to basics while embracing progress is healthy.  It  gives me hope.  I'm not a luddite; I'm a humanist.

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