The idea of a mobile bookstore, once common throughout North America, may seem redundant in an age when we can easily order online, but the folks at Motorbooks would disagree. By taking their product directly to places where car enthusiasts gather, better known as targeted marketing, the company believes it can best be positioned to meet potential readers. And so the Motorbooks Mobile, a renovated bookmobile, is on a road trip to automotive events until mid-November.
I hope they succeed, for this is one old-fashioned concept that deserves to be revived. I've yet to view a book online that compares with having the real thing in your hands where you can feel the paper, turn the pages back and forth, and examine the photos at will. Nor do I agree that electronic book reading provides the same visceral pleasure as a book, or a magazine for that matter.
Motorbooks, an imprint of the Quayside Publishing Group, has been building its reputation for 45 years (I first discovered their ads in Road & Track magazine decades ago) and is now regarded by enthusiasts as the world's leading transportation book publisher. "Transportation enthusiasts – whether they are hot rodders, motorcyclists, racers, sports car fans – are keenly aware and appreciative of sharp design, quality form and thoughtful presentation. A beautiful, printed book is all of those things," says Zack Miller, Motorbooks' publisher.
While the brick and mortar bookstores offer fewer titles or disappear altogether, Ken Fund, president of the Quayside Publishing Group, believes the bookmobile's time has come again as a mobile bookstore.
Note: After praising these efforts, I must admit that I've never actually seen a bookmobile, except in photographs. But that's because I've lived most of my life in big cities, surrounded by libraries and bookstores. The town of Sidney, BC, where I now reside, has an excellent library and no less than eight bookstores, seven of them selling used books. All very nice but for a car and historic transportation guy there is no specialty shop where I can find what I want. So I think the Motorbooks Mobile will be welcomed by people like me at shows and other events where it appears.
Unfortunately for the rest of us, the tour is limited to the eastern states, coming west only as far as Indiana. Obviously there must be a limit to what one vintage vehicle can do but if it proves worthwhile there may eventually be a bookmobile serving the west. And I, at last, will finally get to see one.