Death of the Bookstore…That’s Progress?

With both of the nation’s national booksellers filing for bankruptcy (Borders in 2009 and Barnes & Noble this year), what does the future of actual books hold? If you go into one of these bookstores today, you willcertainly notice they don’t carry the inventory they did 10 years ago. With E-Books, the Kindle and I-Pad, bookstores are sure to suffer the same death as music stores already have.

There is nothing like spending hours, at a time, in a bookstore, especially when you find a gem of a book that you would not have found without being there and seeing it.  It was the same with discovering music. I still remember flipping through records at Licorice Pizza and The Wherehouse stores for that new undiscovered band.  Even the mega chains like Tower Records and Virgin Megastores couldn’t keep up.  And, frankly, buying music on itunes  just isn’t the same.  You either need to know what you are looking for or you have what Apple gladly displays in the genre of your choice by “popularity.”  It’s just not easy to find something unique and new online in the same way as going into a store.

For me, this is sad on a personal level.  My wife and I used to spend countless hours together in the music store looking for new stuff. It was fun and a social occasion. We have also spent countless hours in Borders together: scanning shelves, sitting and reading, and buying countless books we didn’t really need. Some of them real gems!  It’s a huge social event for us. We even browsed a bookstore on our first date (waiting for a movie) and enjoyed trying to make the other laugh.

I know it’s not just us either. Browsing in a bookstore is an American social pastime (think ‘Seinfeld”, “When Harry Met Sally,” and “Annie Hall.”).  The more and more we do online, the less social avenues we have together.  We used to go out to buy our music, movies and books. Not anymore. Of course, when we wanted to talk to our friends, we also called them. Now we just read their Facebook status.


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