Hunt Valley's "Greetings and Readings" closed in January.
Hunt Valley's "Greetings and Readings" closed in January. (Baltimore Sun Photo)

I need a card and a little gift for my nephew’s birthday. Where to go, where to go? My go-to place in the Hunt Valley Mall is sadly out of business. So, I resort to the messy card aisle in a (best unnamed) chain grocery store and a humble (and wrinkly) $20 bill rather than the unusual and fun things I’d given him in years past.

For Cockeysville residents like me, Greetings and Readings was literally The Shop around the Corner from the “You’ve Got Mail” movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (a remake of an earlier version with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan).

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And who is the big bad “Fox Books” who put them out of business? Amazon, obviously. And I’m ashamed to say, I am guilty in some small way for G and R’s demise.

For years, my favorite way to spend a weekend was at the bookstore, perusing the shelves, picking up uncommonly covered books, selecting journals (to add to the other unfilled ones with pretty covers I already had at home), and buying foreign language books, whose bindings would remain forever intact.

And being the proud literary snob I was, I was possibly the very last human in the greater U.S. to succumb to the allure of the Kindle. I loved the feel of books, the smell of the ink, the sound of the turning of a page, the weight of a great volume in my lap. I loved using bookmarks rather than dog-earring pages — remarking to those who did, that “books are our friends, and turning down corners hurt them. (I avoided the library: the hands of other people on my book friends was somehow unacceptable, as were stains of chocolate, tomato soup and other things better unnamed.) But, eventually, there I was anyway, carting around an electronic gizmo, covered in a designer sleeve, ever prepared to fill snippets of time or long waits at doctors’ offices, airports and guest rooms of friends who go to bed way too early.

And I confess I grew to love it. It was convenient, light and ever at my side.

My library at home grew dusty as I rarely eyed its shelves for something unread or wanting to be reread. Oh, I went to Greetings and Readings and was a good and loyal customer for stationery, cards and gifts. But the book shelves only served to pique my interest in something to read, a title or two that I sneakily jotted down (as if it were a crime — maybe it was), only to look up later on my Amazon app over coffee or in the car.

Amazon’s book department is to a reader what a liquor store is to an alcoholic. It lures you with bargain prices and “if you loved the book you just finished, try these 150 similar titles” schemes. It tempts you further with excerpts, reviews and downloadable samples. Resisting is, frankly, fruitless. And I can shop in my pajamas (which is also how I read most of the time).

I’m sorry, Greetings and Readings, I really am. I was powerless over Amazon and its infinite bounty. I loved you, dear store, and I did my share of shopping in your comfy corners. I understand that I may have failed you by buying books electronically, but I will never forget you. Nevertheless, I know that’s just not enough.

And I’m pretty sure my nephew wholeheartedly agrees.

Margaret Collier is a retired human resources professional. Her email address is mlcinoh@aol.com.

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