The Inevitable Demise Of All Bookstores?

This morning, I was enjoying my weekly Sunday routine of brunch, coffee, and errands, when I noticed on my way home that Oscar’s Art Books had a closing sign in the window.

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As a lover of anything surrounding books, bookstores, and reading, I was dismayed. I love spending afternoons browsing small, independent bookstores, coffee in hand, as well as large chains such as Chapters. I rarely browse or order books off of Amazon, and I do not particular enjoy using eBooks either. I decided to go inside and see for myself.

There were a few people milling about, and the sales associate was friendly and welcoming as usual. Oscar’s has been one of my favourite places to browse and purchase Moleskines- they have tons of different styles, and sometimes have 20% off sales, making them cheaper than what their giant neighbour Chapters sells them for. They also have a really neat selection of calendars, books for adults and children, and specialty large-format art books. I love the cozy environment and atmosphere, and browsing the quirky merchandise and new books.

They have been in business for 24 years, but they are definitely not the first or last independent bookstore in Vancouver to close. However, they are well-loved by the Vancouver community (especially the niche art community that they serve) and are one of the longest and last-standing bookstores.

Oscar’s official statement posted on its Facebook page reads:

“It’s been a great run, being on Broadway for 24 years, what a show! We’ve always moved with the times but unfortunately the Internet has taken over. Our sincerest thanks to all the great customers and the Vancouver art community who have supported Oscar’s as an independent bookstore throughout the years – thank you for your love and loyalty.”

Even though I am part of the millennial generation, I have a great love for books that time nor technology will ever take away. Bookstores are one of the few places that I feel at peace in, and can truly relax in. Growing up, the majority of my peers found it odd that I actually loved to read and write, and that I actually liked spending money on books rather than on more typical tween purchases.

I can spend hours just browsing new titles, reading (if permitted), looking at the cool merchandise, and I can seldom resist walking away without purchasing a book. I love the feeling of reading a physical book- unless I have to, I will always prefer to have a physical copy over an eBook version, even if it’s more expensive. I rarely, if ever, turn to Amazon to purchase my books.

I would gladly pay the extra costs to support these stores, but unfortunately, most people aren’t. Every time an independent bookstore closes, my heart aches. Most people are quick to blame large companies such as Chapters/Indigo for the shutdowns, but Oscar’s has cited the growing popularity of Amazon and usage of eBook readers as its reason. In fact, Chapters faces immense pressures from the same sources too- but it has larger amounts of capital and resources to sustain itself, unlike these small, independently-owned bookstores. But how long can it sustain itself for?

My biggest fear is that one day, not only will independent bookstores no longer exist, but even Chapters may go out of business. If that day ever comes, I will be really upset. In the meantime, I will continue to spend lovely Sunday afternoons browsing in my happy place, losing myself in a good book, and I will continue to support brick and mortar bookstores. I hope that enough people appreciate literature as much as I do, so that these companies are able to survive and thrive through all the technological changes in today’s society.

My Top 5 Ways to Destress and Relax

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Like most of the population, I am often prone to stress and anxiety, and suffer long days (and worse, nights) in front of a computer working or studying. As a working student, I completely understand how it feels like to be completely exhausted and drained after a long day, and never seeing the light of day because you’re always at work or school.

However, I do my best to carve out some time to relax and destress, even when I am in the midst of a crunch time. I know that it’s hard to give up even a minute or try to relax when you have deadlines coming up, but it’s crucial to keep a sound and clear mind so you can actually accomplish and do a good job at whatever you’re doing, and avoid completely burning out. Trust me, crashing from overworking yourself is so brutal, and always happens at the worst possible times (like in the middle of an exam! Yes it’s happened before).

Here are my 5 personal favourite ways to destress and unwind. They range from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on how much time I have.

  1. A face mask is my favourite quick fix way of unwinding after a long week. It feels refreshing, refines your skin, and it feels like you’re getting a spa treatment but for a fraction of the price. It takes 10-15 minutes tops, and helps to reset my mind and wind down for the night.Some of my favourites include:
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    Freeman Anti-Stress Dead Sea Minerals Mask, $4.99 at London Drugs
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    skoah aha mask, $35.00 at skoah.com

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  2. Exercise. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but a good workout actually takes the tension out of my body and puts me in an instant feel-good, relaxed state post-workout, shower, and meal. It’s literally the best feeling ever as I’m relaxing in my chair after I’ve done all three. Staying active helps to keep you healthy and in shape, sharpens your cognitive abilities, and improves the quality of your sleep. all of which are especially important during crunch times.

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  3. Retail therapy. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Go ahead, treat yourself after you’ve pulled through a particularly difficult or busy period. You deserve it! I actually feel my worries melt away after a successful shopping trip. Just don’t go too crazy with that credit card!

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  4. A good book. As a bookworm, I love to read and spend time in Chapters/Indigo, but I rarely have time to do so nowadays. So when I do get the chance, say post-finals, I will curl up with a novel and escape from the real world for a couple of hours. There’s nothing like getting lost in a good book and forgetting about your own troubles for a while. If you don’t like books, watching a few episodes of your favourite TV show also helps to take your mind off things.

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  5. Music and sleep. If I’m really pressed for time and can’t do any of the above, I will at least give myself a break when I’m on my commute home or before I go to bed, put in my headphones, close my eyes, and let the tension melt away from my body. I love chatting with friends while commuting, but it’s important for me to get in some me-time and just listen to my iPod, and music helps to calm me down and lull me to sleep. No studying. No texting. Just me and my music.

These are my favourite ways to destress- there are more, but the list would go on forever. I hope that I’ve at least helped remind you that it’s okay to take a break sometimes, and that stopping what you’re doing for a few minutes to rejuvenate won’t kill you. Happy relaxing!