seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Browsing v. Searching

The loss of local bookstores troubles me. Whether it is Amazon or e-books, I fear for local bookstores, particularly used bookstores. A recent commentary by Leon Wieseltier in The New Republic (full article is behind a pay wall) offers a spirited defense of local businesses over online alternatives. A taste:

Browsing is not idleness; or rather, it is active idleness—an exploring capacity, a kind of questing non-instrumental behavior. Browsing is the opposite of “search.” Search is precise, browsing is imprecise. When you search, you find what you were looking for; when you browse, you find what you were not looking for. Search corrects your knowledge, browsing corrects your ignorance. Search narrows, browsing enlarges. It does so by means of accidents, of unexpected adjacencies and improbable associations. On Amazon, by contrast, there are no accidents. Its adjacencies are expected and its associations are probable, because it is programmed for precedents.

Support your local stores.