It seems that many people fear for the continuing existence of bookstores. Over the last few months I have read about the struggle many bookstores are facing, and in fact, know of two local stores that are no longer in business. I was shocked when I dropped in the mall a couple of weeks back and realized that there was no longer a bookstore there. I remember when there would always be one, if not two, bookstores in any mall.
Why the closings? When the question is asked, many talk about the economy, disposable income, and online bookstores as some of the problems faced by today's book retailers. One problem is online stores have less overhead, can stock more titles without worrying about shelf space, they don't charge taxes, and many are now offering services such as no shipping fees. In order to stay in business bookstores are feeling a need to compete.
What got me to thinking about this? This article about a bookstore in England that thinks it has found a way to compete... at least with the problem of out of print or sold out books. They have installed a machine that prints out a book for you, cover and all, in the time it takes to brew a cappuccino! The techno geek in me was fascinated by this attempt to be competitive.
While the techno geek in me was going WOW!, the part of me who loves books wasn't so sure. See, I don't buy my books from online stores, and still trek down to the local bookstores on a regular basis. I may read about and decide I want a book based on recommendations, both online and from friends in the solid world, but I still go to the bookstore to buy it. Why? Because half the fun of going to buy new books is the experience of wandering thru the store and coming across a book that you might not have discovered if it hadn't caught your eye. Checking out the Just Arrived Shelves, wandering in the sections for other genres than the ones you normally read, picking up a book that the title or cover has caught your attention and opening it up and reading a little to see if it catches your interest... I've discovered many the treasure in an author or book that I wouldn't have ever found if I was just shopping online.
Would I still read/buy books if I could only order them? Yes. Would I miss being surrounded by books and wandering around amidst them to see if I might find a hidden jewel? Oh Yes! I don't see Bookstores being replaced, but I do see them changing to reflect new technology. A machine than can print off a book not in stock on demand, a place to download an e-book to your reader instead of buying a hardcopy, having people working in your store that love books and are ready to recommend something you might like? Definitely. But, not to have the opportunity to pick up, touch, and see books... I think that the world would be a little less bright if that happened.
Opinions? Thoughts? Do you order all of your books online? Do you go to the local bookstore? A little of each? While I have no problem buying a book online, I would not be happy if that was my only choice.