Books are, let's face it, better than everything else. If we played Cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time.
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Books are, let’s face it, better than everything else. If we played Cultural Fantasy Boxing League, and made books go fifteen rounds in the ring against the best that any other art form had to offer, then books would win pretty much every time.

-Nick Hornby

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Walking into a bookshop is a depressing thing. It’s not the pretentious twats, browsing books as part of their desirable lifestyle. It’s not the scrubby members of staff serving at the counter: the pseudo-hippies and fucking misfits. It’s not the stink of coffee wafting out from somewhere in the building, a concession to the cult of the coffee bean. No, it’s the books. I could ignore the other shit, decide that maybe it didn’t matter too much, that when consumerism meets culture, the result is always going to attract wankers and everything that goes with them. But the books, no, they’re what make your stomach sink and that feeling of dark syrup on the brain descend. Look around you, look at the shelves upon shelves of books – for years, the vessels of all knowledge. We’re part of the new world now, but books persist. Cheap biographies, pulp fiction; glossy covers hiding inadequate sentiments. Walk in and you’re surrounded by this shit – to every side a reminder that we don’t want stimulation anymore, we want sedation. Fight your way through the celebrity memoirs, pornographic cook books, and cheap thrills that satisfy most and you get to the second wave of vomit-inducing product: offerings for the inspired and arty. Matte poetry books, classics, the finest culture can provide packaged and wedged into trendy coverings, kidding you that you’re buying a fashion accessory, not a book. But hey, if you can stomach a trip further into the shop, you hit on the meatier stuff – history, science, economics – provided they can stick ‘pop.’ in front of it, they’ll stock it. Pop. psychology, pop. art, pop. life. It’s the new world – we don’t want serious anymore, we want nuggets of almost-useful information. Books are the past, they’re on the out. Information is digital now; bookshops, they’re somewhere between gallery and museum.

-Matthew Selwyn

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