Amazon.com is a great place to buy books. Small bookshops and even big retailers, like Borders, have been driven out of business by it. It is the favorite complaint of some that this is just not fair. They especially like to complain about the fact that online retailers do not have to collect sales taxes. That advantage is vanishing for Amazon as they expand into more states, including Maryland. So what will some of the small merchants complain about next? Who knows? But some always have someone or something to blame.
Good merchants know that no one owes them anything. They don't complain about the internet. They don't sit around and grip about things being unfair. They spend their energy creating experiences that are unique and that offer value, whether tangible or intangible, to the consumer. If possible, they find a niche market that cannot be properly served by the big retailers. They also use the internet. And they do well.
Back Creek Books on Main Street in Annapolis is a small business like this. A small independent bookstore should have no business surviving, let alone thriving, in the world of Amazon.com. But it does. Among the many great things about it, it offers books that you just can't find elsewhere or that you wouldn't otherwise discover. Among other things, they have a great selection of unique books about Maryland.
One book that I picked up recently was 1988 Glen Burnie 100, Our Spirit Lives, A Pictorial History 1888 - 1988. I cannot find this book anywhere on Amazon or anywhere else online (that is not to say that it might not eventually end up for sale somewhere online in the future).
Glen Burnie is an unincorporated area in the northern part of Anne Arundel County near Baltimore City. It is more of a working class area, although there are some nicer parts, especially around the water. Every time I drive through or bike through on the B&A trail, I always want to explore more. You get the feeling that there are probably a million untold stories and forgotten legends from the area. So when I saw this book, which was published in 1988 by the Northern Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, I was excited.
Regarding the book itself, I was slightly disappointed. It was more like a yearbook, full of pictures but short on information. For example, it has a picture of Glen Burnie in 1895 and mentions that the town hall, also called the "Orange Hall" could be seen in the background. What business was conducted at this town hall? Was Glen Burnie ever an incorporated city? Why was it called the Orange Hall? It mentions that the area was settled by Elias Glenn, a lawyer from Baltimore whose parents were originally from Scotland. Did he name the town hall the Orange Hall out of sympathy with the Orange Order in Scotland or was it simply just painted orange because that was the only color paint they had sitting around? When was the Orange Hall taken down and why? Does anything sit on the site today (or in 1988)? They put in lots of old pictures, which was nice, but details about the history were missing.
I was also struck by the fact that there were hardly any non-white people in the photographs. Glen Burnie is a diverse place with many blacks, Asians, and Hispanics, although it is mostly white. I'm sure it was less diverse in 1988 and before. Still, it did seem that the non-white segment of the population was under represented in this book.
Despite all this, the book did provide some insight into the history of the area and when I get time I hope to compare some of the pictures in the book to how the area looks today.
I'm glad that I found this book, despite the fact that I found it lacking in some respects. I am looking forward to returning to Back Creek Books to see what else I can find.
Maryland Folklore - Book Review