A function no e-reader can fill

There's a lovely story in today's San Francisco Chronicle about a bookstore in Johannesburg that serves as a type of salon, a place where South Africans of all races can come together and share their thoughts and feelings. They discuss race, they discuss AIDs, they discuss xenophobia.

"Tough topics, and in the gentlest of settings," writes correspondent Donna Bryson.

In an era of excitement over e-readers and the opportunity to order books immediately and inexpensively, it is well to remember that physical bookstores are more than simply places to pick up books. In the case of Boekehuis (Afrikaans for house of books), customers can meet with fellow book lovers in a "Victorian era home with walls a welcoming shade of toasted yellow, gleaming wood floors and a coffee shop dispensing lattes and scones to be consumed along with the latest poetry journals."

A highly welcoming "intellectual space," is the way one customer describes it.

Corina van der Spoel, a former literary journalist and book publicist, has been the manager of Boekehuis for a decade. She notes that, "Love for books is a very special thing that binds people. I see that every day."

One sad but highly relevant postscript to this lovely store: Boekehuis, which is supported by Media24, a major newspaper and magazine publisher, does not make a profit.

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