Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bookstores - Dinosaurs or Here to stay?

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.


Donna said...

Not only do I order books online, but I get USED books. So I'm no help to the stores at all. Of course, I don't drive. If I drove, I'd probably visit Barnes and Noble frequently. I love that place.

FrankandMary said...

I come in contact with so many people who say they rarely read books, they are quick to follow it up with the fact that they do read the paper & magazines. This does not comfort me. Still others read e-books. Well, fine, it isn't really any of my business, but I'm reading a book, copy of which was printed in 1899, and it is a joy just to hold it, to turn each page, to smell it. But book stores will cease, pretty much. Mine are so stone empty, but the dollar store & the video store which are in the same complex as one book store I go to are teeming with people, bad economy? Maybe that would explain the dollar store but not the video store being full. ~Mary

Traci said...

I don't see them all going out of business. The ones I go to seem to be plenty busy. I'm with you I love to be surrounded by books and have something unexpected catch my eye. Amazon can't do that for me. I do, however, buy school books for the girls online.

Jam said...

I like rooting through old books. I like the surprise of not knowing what I bought and then finding out it is an absolute gem. I've had that happen to me lots of times, so I wouldn't like to miss that experience.

Indigo said...

Honestly, the techo age has cost readership in this new age, striking despairingly deep in the heart...In todays world you won't find as many readers as a dozen years ago. Somehow people are so driven and busy the artform of sitting and reading any single tome is beyond them.

Not to mention intelligence is becoming more rare, while laziness is upped. Yes, this is sounding like a rant. I would miss my book stores greatly for all the reasons you listed. Give me a book I can hold in my hand, turn the pages to a world outside my own and I'm home.

Wish more of us felt that way. (Hugs)Indigo

DesLily said...

hey JJ.. i do both. mostly on line I will admit, but part of that reason is not driving or having a way to get to bookstores. and at the same time I am more limited than ever for spending now and on line is as cheap as I can get books..I would love to go to yard sales and such and get used books there but again.. i have no way of getting there... anyway.. I hope bookstores never disappear, even though I don't buy many from them I love to browse them and would much rather "see" the book before buying it.

Gerry said...

I think at least one big bookstore chain will survive, but my son took me to the biggest busiest book store that features all used in good shape, too! That visit gave me a boost, because it says people are still reading books. He bought one for Dante my grandson, who was with us. I was glad he is doing all he can to turn his son into a book lover as my daughter Ronda is doing with hers. My extended family has gradually taken to giving all books to each other as well as passing on books they feel others would like, so actually by book reviews and talking about books, I would say my family's book reading has increased. I think there are a lot of book lovers out there and they will continue to spread enthusiasm that will insure that book lovers do not become extinct! Gerry