In 1997, Haunted Bookshop fell victim to competition from big box book stores nearby and the building and parking lot were donated to the Tohono Chul Park. Ironically, the Borders Books and Music which presented the greatest threat to the independent bookseller would be gone fifteen years later – itself of a victim of competition from online booksellers. People mourned the loss of the Borders like they had mourned the loss of the Haunted Bookshop earlier. After all, if a behemoth like Borders – a well-known "category killer" mega-chain which had felled numerous independent booksellers couldn't survive in the modern marketplace – then what was the future of the book store in America? Or did it even have one?
As the Arizona Daily Star reported at the time: "…Borders is seen as the dinosaur by many analysts. Experts blame the company's financial woes on its belated reaction to the popularity of e-books and e-book readers, its failure to respond to declining music and DVD sales, and its slowness in establishing itself as an online bookseller…"
That's probably all true. Just as all of this – the loss of the Haunted Bookshop, the loss of Borders and the rise of the online bookseller – is just another eddy in the constantly-changing stream of capitalism. But what people are really mourning when they miss the brick-and-mortar book store is not the loss of literature – which is a thriving industry which continues to grow thanks largely to the e-publication revolution – but the loss of the book-browsing experience. As much as I love being able to purchase what I want with a few taps on my touchpad, there is something wonderful about browsing through the stacks looking for that perfect book. And then becoming so lost in the quest that time just slips away from you. And this is before you even sit down to read what you've purchased. For true bibliophiles, it's the loss of this ritual which really hurts.
Photo Album: See more of Tohono Chul Park on my Tumblr PageStarting the mid-1970s, when their ilk weren't rapidly becoming a vestige of the past, the tantalizingly named "Haunted Bookshop" was one of the best book stores in Tucson. The place wasn't really haunted, or at least I don't think it was and I'd be the type of person to investigate that, I assure you. But it was great for whiling away a couple of hours, lost among the adobe building's nooks and crannies or in the dimly-lit loft area upstairs. Kids had a special area back in one corner, complete with a tunnel and cave they could crawl through or hide in which kept them delightfully occupied while their parents browsed the stacks.
Once you had made your book selection, you could wander out the small gate on the west side of the parking lot and slip into the gardens of the Tohono Chul Park. Down a short path was a tranquil oasis, a series of interconnected gardens, armadas and trickling streams where you could sit in the shade and read.
Over the holidays, I had the chance to return to where the now-defunct bookshop still stands and recollect on how many hours I enjoyed this place and how our changing society brought about its demise.