The Death of Bookstores?

This post, by L. Anne Carrington, originally appeared on her The Book Shelf blog on 10/9/11, and is reprinted here in its entirety with her permission.

With Borders closing its doors after 40 years in business in addition to other major bookstore chains either downsizing locations and/or closing altogether, many can’t help but wonder if the era of brick-and-mortar bookstores are joining the Walkman, Windows 95 and vinyl records in becoming things of the past.

It was bound to happen once books – from classic to present-day titles – became available on devices such as Kindle, iPhones, and others made for downloading electronic reader versions of various books. Colleges are now offering online textbooks for their students; hence, there won’t be many physical textbooks being ‘bought back’ by college bookstores once the terms end as it was in my day.

Ereaders can’t take all the blame, though. Sites such as Amazon make book browsing and purchasing a lot more convenient, and many times, favorite books can be bought for a cheaper price than the neighborhood bookstore.

While Kindles and Nooks are wonderful gadgets, they don’t have the feel and smell that a good hardcover (or even paperback) offers. Ereaders are lightweight, but there’s something about turning pages of a chilling mystery novel while cuddled under a large down comforter by the fire on a stormy night. I also wouldn’t recommend using a Nook to read in the bathtub, and Kindles are hard to dog-ear pages.

There is some good news, however. Half Price Books continues to do well, as are some smaller, independent bookstores. For those who really enjoy nostalgia with their reading, nothing beats a weekend afternoon in the local vintage bookstore – the best place to find out-of-print favorites.

A fellow book aficionado told me about an independent book store in Houston that’s perfect for crime buffs: Murder by the Book.

Bookstores also offer a social aspect that all the web sites and ereaders in the world will never compensate. When was the last time you discussed a great new book with a total stranger standing side by side a Nook? Does an aroma of exotic house blend of coffee come from an iPad? There’s also nothing like chatting up the sales staff while they ring your purchases, especially if it’s something they too have read. Kind of difficult to do the latter making an Amazon purchase, isn’t it?

What would happen if every bookstore in the world closed and actual books stopped being printed? Not only would there be a lot of devastated printed book buffs, but also publishers taking a large hit (and some already have). Many say there’s nothing more delightful than sitting and getting lost in a book, and I have to agree. Ereaders just don’t offer the same effect, no matter what anyone says.

Kind of like video killed the radio star, ereaders and other technology may kill the traditional bookstore…

 

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