Friday, April 23, 2010

Book stores? What is happening to them?

By Lonnie Cruse

A lot of book stores have closed in the last decade. Small, independent book stores and large chain book stores. Metropolis, Illinois no longer has the small independent that was open when we moved here, and Paducah lost its Borders just last year. Sigh. What to do, what to do?

I don't mind buying books on the Internet, be they vintage and hard to find or brand new, but I far prefer walking into a book store and browsing, handling the books, seeing the cover for real as opposed to on my computer screen, smelling the fresh pages, flipping through to see what the book is about. Don't you? So what happens when more and more book stores close? Will we be forced to get all of our books online?

Yes, we can see the cover online. We can often even "flip pages" to see what's inside. That's helpful. But it's no where near like holding the physical book in our hands. I love the tote bag Books A Million carries that has a grocery list printed on the outside that reads something like this: Books, milk, bread, etc. Firmly putting books where they belong, on any shopping list . . . right on top!

I own an e-book reader and I love it. I love being able to carry multiple books in my purse without the weight. I love being able to buy a book late at night while laying in bed, simply by going online with the unit, finding it, purchasing and downloading it. But nothing can ever take the place of a physical book in my hands. Which is why I have four or five large book shelves in this house plus books in the closet, in baskets, on tables, and a box or two in the shed. Whew.

I don't know what the answer to this book store closing problem is. Maybe the number of readers IS down, yet I often hear people talking about what they are reading. Maybe the online option has taken much of the business from the brick and mortar people, yet I know others like to browse the book store as much as I do. Whatever the problem is, it will be a sad day if all book stores go out of business. Sad for those of us who like to browse, sit in the chairs that the store provides and take a better look at the books we've chosen, maybe even grab a cup of coffee if the store has that option, and just plain enjoy.

Book stores, both independent and chains, need our support if they are to stay in business. Just my $.02

Thanks for stopping by. Read any good books lately?


CJ West said...

I wish I had the answer Lonnie. I've worked with some great indie stores. I think the key for them is to offer experiences and stop trying to compete primarily on the selling of books.

Mike Jastrzebski said...

I love bookstores, large and small, but like you I have an e-reader and do most of my reading on it. That's two of us right there who are buying fewer physical books. Bookstores need real customers who buy more than an occassional book.

Do I feel guilty about this? I do, but I sure do like the convenience of my Kindle.

Sheila Connolly said...

My family had a long tradition of going to bookstores for entertainment. One of my grandmother's favorite after-dinner strolls in New York City was to Doubleday, and she always brought home at least one book. When the mall at Short Hills in NJ opened (my, I'm really dating myself), we would make pilgrimages to Brentano's there.

My daughter works in a large, family-run independent bookstore in the greater Boston area, and it's fascinating to get a glimpse into how they operate (although I don't think it's representative). It's always busy, with people pounding on the door at closing time.

The only way the indies have a prayer of staying open is if people visit and buy books. They may not be as cheap as Amazon or even the chains, but we need them in our lives.

Lonnie Cruse said...

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts and for stopping by!

marsupilamima said...

I love reading and I love browsing in bookstores. I have an e-reader but it's not always easy to buy e-books in other languages (Frech, Spanish Italian, German...). Well, I'm just like you, I live in Paris where we still have many bookstores and I enjoy just being there. I love talking with the other customers and the booksellers because most of them do know their jobs and are "well read".

Dru said...

I love bookstore and I have an e-reader which I'm using as my virtual book shelf. This allows me to keep my pleasure of patrolling the book aisles looking for the next book to read.

signlady217 said...

I don't but a lot of new books, but I do buy tons of used ones. From what I can tell, the prices for new books at chains and indies are the same, it's just that most of the chains have their own "member discount card", so that helps knock the price down a bit. Since I don't buy a lot of new ones, the cost of the membership isn't worth it anymore, so I've started buying my new books at our local indie store. I just hope they don't depend on just me to keep their doors open!

I do love the actually feel of the books in my hands, too. Love walking through and browsing. That's one of my hangouts. If I ever go missing, my husband knows what stores to tell the police to start looking at! :)

Pat Batta said...

I don't have a kindle. I buy books when I travel. Otherwise, I have traditionally used the library for my reading material. Do I feel guilty about that? I sure do, especially now that I write books myself. In fact I just blogged about that yesterday.

I hope to have a Kindle next time I travel, but I also have started going to more book signings and buying books. Even when I do my own book signings, I end up spending more than I make. Hope that helps a little bit!

kathy d. said...

Oh, gosh, I can't live without actual books near me and reading real books, turning pages, putting the book down next to me when I go to sleep, waking up and picking up the book again to read a few more pages.

And I need to see my bookcase in my bedroom with favorite books in it.

I don't read books online. I always have a TBR pile of purchased, borrowed and library books.

I liken going into a bookstore and looking at new books--the covers, reading the blurbs, seeing them lined up--to going into a bakery and smelling the riches.

It literally makes me high to go into a bookstore. I stop off at bookstores when I'm in different parts of my city, as I also stop at library branches.

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