With that in mind, I'll point you to The New Republic, which has just published a thoughtful piece by Nicole Krauss, author of Great House and The History of Love, called "The End of Bookstores." Krauss' perspicacious analysis includes a comparison of browsing online and browsing in a bookstore:
Both the Internet and Google Books strive to assemble the known world. The bookstore, on the other hand, strives to be a microcosm of it, and not just any microcosm but one designed—according to the principles and tastes of a “gatekeeper”—to help us absorb and consider the world itself. That difference is everything. To browse online is to enter into a search that allows one to sail, according to an idiosyncratic route formed out of split-second impulses, across the surface of the world, sometimes stopping to randomly sample the surface, sometimes not. It is only an accelerated form of tourism. To browse in a bookstore, however, is to explore a highly selective and thoughtful collection of the world—thoughtful because hundreds of years of thinkers, writers, critics, teachers, and readers have established the worth of the choices. Their collective wisdom seems superior, for these purposes, to the Web’s “neutrality,” its know-nothing know-everythingness.
Read the whole essay here.