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BOOKSTORES – RARER BY THE DAY

October 31, 2012

The other day, we went to the Barnes & Noble in downtown Las Vegas. I was browsing around in the hardback section near the back when my wife came up to me, clearly upset.

“They’re closing the store!”

“What?” I said.

“The doors close at the end of the year.”

I let out some colorful metaphors I won’t repeat here. Then I realized I was only a few feet from the Children’s Section.

Turns out, the building owners were doubling the rent so B&N decided to pack up shop. From what one of the clerks said, they weren’t closing the other three stores in the valley, just this one. The other stores are much further away. From what my daughter could gather from the clerks (she asked a few others), they were all going to be out of work or would have to move to the other stores if they had an opening because there were no plans to find another location in this area.

One down, three to go?

Is this attrition?

Back in the day, there were not only the chains like Borders, Barnes & Noble and a few names I’ve forgot, but plenty of mom & pop bookstores. What do we have today? One store, depending on which part of the country you live in. Either Barnes & Noble or Hastings. That’s it as far as I know except for the occasional used bookstore.

I’m not sure how limited it is in Europe, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s similar to here.

Publishers like to throw the blame on electronic books for their downfall. After all, isn’t it much nicer to have a small little device with a huge library than a room full of books you’ll eventually have to take to the Goodwill?

On the other hand, if you’re like me, I can’t stand an electronic reader. My wife uses one almost exclusively. She started with a Sony and had to switch to a Nook. She had one electronic book she hated but thought I’d like, so I tried her Nook. The story was okay but I hated reading that Nook! I, unlike a lot of people, prefer the tactile feel of paper. I like the smell of the pages, the look of the font. I like the ability to go to the end, if I want. I like to sample the book first to find out whether it’s in first person, or mixed POV so I can immediately put it down. I like the cover. What can I say? I read off a computer all day long. Geez! I’d like a little break from the screen when I want to read for pleasure.

Books in print have a lot of issues, none the least is cost. As with everything else, the costs of producing books have risen. However, publishers have shot themselves in the foot by the way they go about their business, especially with all the middlemen taking huge chunks of the pie as well as other sides of the business end. At every writer’s conference, I hear plenty about how publishers are killing themselves, tightening the noose around their own necks because they aren’t innovating to the changing market.

Is it any wonder that bookstores have gone on the decline?

I really believe there are still plenty of people out there that love real books. Plus, there are just some things that don’t do well in electronic format, at least not yet.

The problem is that the market is what drives the stores. If the publishers wimp out, or if the readers stop buying, that will be a death knell for bookstores. Then we all lose.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2012 3:35 am

    As an avid reader and a B&N employee, this breaks my heart.

    • November 1, 2012 4:40 am

      Skylah,

      Welcome to my site! Yeah, I hate to see it too. At least there are three other stores in town but I hope they don’t find other excuses to close them down also. B&N is my favorite store, to tell the truth.

      Thanks for writing!

      Fred

  2. October 31, 2012 4:00 am

    There are new private book stores opening throughout the country, not necessarily mom and pop stores. I think one or more of them are in Memphis who seem to be having success. The entrepreneurs are successful authors who I suspect have money behind them. I saw a long story about one of them on TV who opened the store after the last remaining B&N in their community closed down. Have you ever thought about going into the bookstore business, Fred?

    • November 1, 2012 4:43 am

      Felix,

      No way would I want to run any retail business, even books, as much as I love them. Nice thought though.

      Memphis, huh? Never heard of such a thing. Here in Las Vegas, we have several used bookstores but with four, soon to be three B&Ns around, that’s just too much competition for a small operation, I guess. Even Wal-Mart and Target has pretty dim selections. Same with Walgreens and the supermarkets.

      Really pathetic.

      Fred

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