Loren Qualls sits on the floor of his downtown Merced iPad lounge, painting the words "Read the World" in black, orange and green letters amidst a medley of expressions celebrating the written word.
The adage is more than a creative catchphrase for the 41-year-old UC Merced writing lecturer -- it's a portal to knowledge and positive healthy living.
Those may be tall words in an age where the average teen is more familiar with "A Tale of Two Web Sites (Facebook and YouTube)" than "A Tale of Two Cities." Regardless, Qualls is optimistic about the future of reading. "Reading can be laborious, but it's a very immediate and lasting experience," Qualls believes. "When you read a book, every word has a purpose. It's a little more work, but it causes that image to be engraved in your mind."
Qualls is banking that Mercedians will see the validity of his philosophy. Case in point, on Saturday he's opening the doors to Off the Shelf, the city's first iPad lounge and bookstore.
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Recently introduced by Apple, the iPad is a tablet-style computer that operates with a touch screen, producing high-resolution images that can be turned like the pages of a book. The device sports countless other features as well.
Qualls, who is opening the lounge at 315 W. Main St. with business partner Nicholas Valdez, says Off The Shelf is the first iPad lounge bookstore in the Valley that he's aware of. Visitors can use one of the lounge's in-house iPads -- and those who have their own can plug into Off the Shelf's computer catalogue of books.
For those who prefer to read the old-fashioned way, Off the Shelf also has a huge complement of used books and magazines to choose from.
Beyond an iPad lounge, Qualls also envisions Off the Shelf as a place for residents to share a cup of joe and conversation. He also plans to hold readings, live music, art exhibitions and other events at the space.
He's also hopeful Off The Shelf will become a gathering place for artists, students and writers in the community, along with folks who'll simply enjoy the lively atmosphere. "It has its own personality, which is important. It adds something different that I think Mercedians will enjoy and like," Qualls related. "It's really a place where people can feel creative and express themselves."
Off The Shelf will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday's grand opening celebration is free to the public and kicks off at 6 p.m. with poetry by local writers Ismael Lara, Carol Ellis, Jared Stanley and Stephen Mayu.
The event will also feature readings performed by actors from the Black Box Theatre, along with hors d'oeuvres and refreshments.
For more information, call Off the Shelf at (209) 349-8862.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.