Talk to owners of small bookstores about business and the reply is usually tentative. They are grateful to have a business but uncertain about the future. So far the stores in my neighborhood are hanging on, particularly if they sell used books as well as new, I try to support these establishments but their shelves are spare, only allowing for best sellers. That’s why I drop into my local Barnes & Noble when I want a book off the shelf. But that, too, is becoming a problem as Barnes & Noble is dedicating less floor space to books in preference to games, magazines, and “how to” paperbacks. Sometimes I end up having to order books and wait just as I do with the smaller stores.
Now I read that Barnes & Noble going to eliminate many outlets — 20 a year over the next decade. (The Week, 2/8/13 pg. 32) Amazon is one reason. Like a black hole, it is threatening its sole competitor of size. Another reason for the decline in bookstores is the consumer shift to eBooks. Sales of print books have dropped 22% from 2007.
I don’t know how anyone else feels, but I don’t want to live in a virtual world, scanning through virtual titles. I want to feel a book in my hands. I want to spend an hour browsing rows of titles on shelves, taking the time to admire the covers and grabbing a cup of coffee as I peruse the pages of a new release — a Susan Stoner’s Sage Adair historical mystery, for example, or a 1920s “who done it” by Carola Dunn. Reading book excerpts on Amazon isn’t the same experience. It doesn’t allow me to chat with a fellow customer who might make a recommendation or two that introduces me to new writers. No, a virtual book store isn’t convivial. When Barnes & Noble goes, so goes a last major lynch pin of the bricks and mortar book buying experience.
I can’t help it. Some days, I want to go backward instead of forward.
(Courtesy of www.photographersdirect.com)