Turning the page, saying goodbye

February 28, 2014

capitola-book-cafe-02It was the late 1980s, before Starbucks, and before Borders and Barnes and Noble. A girlfriend and I spent quite a bit of time in Capitola and I became acquainted with the Capitola Book Cafe.  I was enthralled. A bookstore that served coffee drinks and pastries? I’d never seen a place like that!

Shelves and shelves crammed full of books of all kinds, beautifully displayed. I loved to browse, then sit and chat over lattes. Assuming we could find a seat, because that place got busy. I loved it.


How could I own such a place? I wondered. It seemed like a sure-thing. There were lots of people like me who loved books and coffee.  In my fantasies, I opened a store just like it and it was a big success.

At the time, brick and mortar bookstores were the only kind, really. Oh, there were book catalogs we could get in the mail and then order those books. But if we wanted a book we went to a bookstore. We looked through the stacks, got attracted to intriguing covers, turned pages and make our choices. Simple as that. That’s the way it was done.

At the time, something like Amazon was inconceivable.

I don’t get to Capitola much, anymore. After all, 25 years have passed, my  life is different, busier. But last fall, we took a little drive and I suggested we drop in at the the Book Cafe and look around.  Here’s what the shelves looked like:

bookstore sparse

Heartbreakingly sparse.

Look, the truth is that I’m a big Amazon customer. I read a LOT and buy a lot of books, both print and electronic.  Amazon’s pricing is seductive, especially if you’re a “power reader.”  When I browse the stacks in independents, I always buy a book or two, but nowhere near the number I buy online.  Emotionally, I’d love to. Financially? It makes no sense.  As upset as I get over the shuttering of traditional bookstores, the brutal truth is that I’m as responsible as anyone else for their demise.

Struggling to stay afloat in a business increasingly hostile to old-school bookstores, the store’s owners enlisted the community’s support several years ago, and support they got.  Still, it wasn’t enough. We’d heard the bookstore would be closing in 2014 and we stood in the store looking at visible proof that it would. I tried to explain to M, exactly what this bookstore had been back in the day and for old time’s sake, we had a coffee.  I bought a couple of books and cards.


I remember a big elephant over the coffee bar.

Today, Capitola Book Cafe closes its doors for the last time and when it does, a chapter in my California life also closes for good.  Maybe that’s just the way things are supposed to be–the old gives way to the new in a constant evolution.  Still, I can’t help but be sad and a little teary in a way I can’t imagine people of the future being if Amazon ever shut down.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it would be entirely the same.

It’s strange to look back over 60 years and see in retrospect all the changes that we Baby Boomers have lived though. Some of them have given way to (now) indispensable technology.

But not everything new and modern is an improvement.

I hope I don’t see the disappearance of every bookstore in my lifetime.  Then again, I’m not willing to change my book-buying habits, either. It’s an impasse, a game of chicken. We know who lost.

Or do we?


RIP Capitola Book Cafe (1980-2014)

32 comments on “Turning the page, saying goodbye
  1. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    I think Amazon should open retail stores at their discounted prices, complete with coffee. Think how fun that would be.

    • admin says:

      Sadly, that would mean the end of discounted prices. It’s their highly efficient distribution system that requires no real estate that makes their pricing so low. There’s no way to have it all, I suppose.

  2. What is so sad about technology is erasing the “personal touch.” Oh, I love Amazon…the prices, the ease. But, I also love to sit in a bookstore with coffee and enjoy the people around me as well as the read. I love the atmosphere of these places…and I hate it that they are going away. I am someone who will go into Starbucks just for the atmosphere rather than the drive through. I will show up at Barnes & Nobles to read a magazine in the coffee area for the atmosphere. We are turning into a rather boring society where we all just interact with phones and computers. I went to the mall yesterday and watched person after person walk by fixated with phones. In San Antonio, we have the first computer library…it is stark white and silver, all computers, clean tables…no books in view…I HATE IT! Boring and sad.

  3. Ryder Ziebarth says:

    Our town has a great solution, actually. The public library installed a cafe with coffee and biscotti, newspapers, magazines, wifi and soft conversation( even on your phone) allowed. It’s a wonderful place to work, and I almost always go home with a checked -out book.It has been a God-send this winter as we live in a fairly rural area.

    • admin says:

      That sounds fantastic. Here, our libraries are either closing or limiting hours or charging an $80per year usage fee if you don’t live in the city the library’s in.

  4. Anne says:

    Oh, this is sad. Yes, I’m responsible for this as well.
    It’s like seeing the horses you love going out to pasture but knowing you won’t give up your Model T.

  5. Barbara says:

    There is a bookstore in Edwards, Colorado that I love for these very reasons. It’s in a charming little mountain town just down the road from Vail and at the exit before Beaver Creek. The coffee shop is cozy and the conversations a pleasant hum as you peruse bookshelves and decide which big comfy chair you might plop in. The snow is usually falling outside the big windows. It’s the kind of place that the owners live upstairs. I’ve often fantasized about owning a place just like that. And I usually make a token purchase, but sadly and economically, I buy most of my books at Amazon.

    I share in your homage to places like Capitola. Sounds like it was a great ride.

  6. It is sad. It’s part of why even though I love online shopping I love heading to B&N to sit at Starbucks and read and write. And yet, it’s not even remotely the same. At all. And I know it. But there’s nothing like this where I am. I miss the cute little places like this in NYC, but they’re probably gone or almost gone, too. Sigh.

  7. One of the worst things about the internet and Amazon is the death of bookstores.

  8. Karen @ Baking In A Tornado says:

    I’m very torn here. I’m an avid reader and love holding a book in my hand. And yet on a cold, snowy winter day when I’ve finished my last physical book and can’t make it to the library, I love that I can download something onto my kindle and keep on reading.

  9. Diane says:

    The evolution of life. So bittersweet. Sometimes more bitter than sweet.

  10. Please read George Packer’s article in the February 17 NEW YORKER about Amazon–“Cheap Words.” It paints a thorough picture of Amazon, from Bezos’s first choice of webname: Relentless.com (would we be so addicted to consuming his goods if someone hadn’t recommended the change to Amazon?) to his more recent forays into publishing, tax evasion, exploitation of labor, etc.
    I’ve also tended to substitute cheap books from Amazon for a trip to the library, but after feeling the weight of my choices, I’m identifying all the ways I CAN change my habits. One way is to purchase from publishers’ websites (ebooks, anyway, as the prices are comparable). Full disclosure: I have a small, independent press, Fuze Publishing. When we sell through Amazon, our profit margin evaporates totally.

  11. The link to George Packer’s article is posted several days back on the Fuze Publishing Facebook page, so you can get the article there if you’re not a subscriber. Also on my page, Molly Best Tinsley. It’s an eye-opener.

  12. John Soares says:

    Carol, it’s sad to see the demise of so many independent bookstores. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Santa Cruz area and I have very fond memories of the Capitola Book Cafe.

    I think the strongest independents will survive. In that area it’s likely Bookshop Santa Cruz.

  13. Jenn says:

    I know I’m responsible for this as well. Amazon makes it so easy. I used to live close to an independent bookstore, and I loved it and the feeling of it. I don’t so much get that with even Barnes and Nobles, so I’ve gotten out of the habit.

    • admin says:

      I love Books Inc. in our area and love to browse there. I bought one book there last week, compared to 10 I bought through Amazon last month.

  14. I still enjoy turning the pages of a book, and support the only bookstore left in my hometown. E-books are nice and convenient at times, but nothing beats the smell of a book, or the sound it makes when turning a page.

  15. It’s so sad, isn’t it? We used to have a Borders book store here in town where I bought all my books. When it went out of business, I was crushed. Now I go to the Barnes and Noble 20 minutes from my home. I love that place and I’m happy to say it is always quite crowded whenever I go. But I ask myself the same thing—how long will it last?

  16. pia says:

    I live in the strangest place to have a great public library but we do. Maybe to make up for the lack of book stores–and I so miss them–any decent one.

    That said the UPS or FedEx men ring my doorbell the most–I don’t feel guilty as the Internet made my move possible

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