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November 11, 2015

This isn’t your grandpappy’s day where everyone went to the local mom and pop bookstore anymore. Geez, is that statement becoming a cliché, or what? All you have to do is plug in a different product…I digress.

Over the past decade, or more, book buying has turned into a different animal.


For a good while, long gone were most mom and pop bookstores and small chains. I’d say for the past almost decade, we saw so many major and minor book chains disappear. I can name dozens. Many of them were replaced by used bookstores. I remember one in particular that I used to drive by and occasionally visit in Palmdale, Calee’fornia when I’d go visit my mom. They had shelves of everything from the latest to the obscure. However, despite that, they never quite lived up to my expectations. The obscure I was looking for never made it to their shelves. How many of you have had that experience?

I tried a few of them here in my new home town of Las Vegas. Same thing. I did find one book on telescope making I’d been seeking for years. However, when it came to my favorite fiction authors from the past, no way.

Then one day, out of the blue, I had an urge for the random search, dropped by the bookstore in Palmdale and they’d closed up shop. Same thing happened in Las Vegas. What?

Even the used bookstores I haunted (though rarely) closed up.

New small bookstores gone. Used small bookstores gone.

This, by no means, represented them all, but in a small microcosm, it probably represented a good portion of the country.


On the West Coast, the two major chain stores were Borders and Barnes & Noble. They were the last two holdouts. Then one day, Borders just up and folded. That left B&N. That is still today, pretty much it.

In the Midwest and as close as Arizona, I understand, Hastings is still going, but I can’t swear to that. If that’s the case, they have TWO major book retailers, which is an advantage over us on the West Coast, and maybe the East Coast as well. I’m not sure if Hastings ever made it to the East Coast.


There’s on-line. A lot of the major as well as minor and mom and pop retailers are putting a lot of the blame right in the lap of Amazon for their downfall. Not only does this on-line retailer have the best selection of new books, they also stock used, usually through guess what? Used bookstores! In other words, when I was so disappointed in not finding my obscure authors in the used bookstores, I could go on Amazon and guess what? I not only found used copies, sometimes I found they were re-released or someone had new copies, often signed by the author! This big monster called Amazon made a huge dent where the retail bookstores couldn’t. Yet at the same time, their sources were often outside of Amazon and through small or used bookstores. Go figure.

How can one compete with that, with the exception of the ones that joined? Retailers can’t stock shelves with obscure books that few people want and still make a living unless they join. For those that don’t, they’re left in the dust.

On the other hand, not everyone is either computer savvy or likes to buy a book, sight unseen. The small stores are left with the proverbial bread crumbs in the new e-world.


Then the e-readers came along and there was a revolution in how many people chose to read. No more paper, no more taking up bookshelf space. Everything could be stored in a little thin device you could stick in a drawer. For the e and thumb-generation, it fit right in. For older readers, hit or miss.

How does a retailer sell e-books? You go in, hook up to a loading dock and download a book for a fee? Hardly! It’s all done on-line without every going outside or involving a middleman. No physical bookstore needs to be in the loop. Another part of their downfall.

At least one major retailer, Barnes & Noble got on the ball and came up with their own e-reader, to limited success, but they have to compete with Amazon and their top-selling Kindle.


As many of you know, I can’t stand e-readers. I prefer the feel and smell of a good paper book. I dread the demise of the physical bookstore. I was really happy to hear of the new boutique bookstore Writer’s Block here in town. We also still have Barnes & Noble. I hardly ever buy on line, but recently I bought a few books from Amazon because neither bookstore carries them.

My wife reads both paper and e-books, but mostly e-books. She buys hers through Nook.

How about you?

For any writer, it goes without saying that when you get published, most of you will have printed and e-books available. I know of some authors that only do e-books, while a very few only do printed books. The majority do both. Why sell yourself short? Do both.

Happy writing!

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