Monday, June 09, 2008

Disappearing Bookstores

When I was in San Francisco last month, I noted that there were a lot of bookstores in the downtown area. I saw both independent stores and big box stores.

But that’s not true everywhere. Even here in “weird” Austin, Texas, the independent bookstores are disappearing. Not too many years ago there were many more than there are now. We still have a few, including the humongous BookPeople. But the smaller stores are closing doors, like the wonderful A Thirsty Mind that until a few months ago was in the next community from me.

Even some of the bigger stores are not fairing as well as we might expect. World-wide Barnes & Noble and, much in the news lately, Borders are struggling. One way the mega stores are cutting costs is to do away with their CRMs (Community Relations Manager). That’s bad news for authors since those people are the ones who traditionally set up book signings and events.

Austin is not the only place with a need for independent bookstores.

Take a look at Newark. According to an article in The New York Times,
In 2007, Newark ranked last among the nation’s 69 largest cities in the number of bookstores per capita, with 15 stores for 281,000 people, or 0.53 stores per 10,000 residents…

And yet Newark doesn’t even have a Barnes & Noble.
“Newark needs bookstores,” said Mayor Cory A. Booker, an avid reader who has tried, so far in vain, to bring a large Barnes & Noble to the city. “It’s a gathering place. They’re community-fixers.”

Are bookstores disappearing? Are books destined to go the way of CDs?


  1. Aargh! These kind of reports are so frustrating and agonizing. However, I don't believe it signals the end of bookstores, rather a major change in stores that sell books. I think there will always be a percentage of the population that enjoys physically browsing among books to buy. But, I think it will be as the nineties were when the mega-bookstores arrived--a shakeup.

  2. I hope you're right Conda. I wonder, though. Typewriters are practically extinct now. TVs with antennas are becoming scarce in the stores. I love paper books, but I can imagine a world (after I'm long gone) where books are downloaded and a library could be hardly bigger than a kiosk.

    Makes me shiver.


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