Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do Local Bookstores Deserve to Die?

There used to be plenty of bookstores around. Over the years it seems most of them have disappeared. With a few exceptions, the community I live in has little to offer other than Borders and Barnes & Noble. Most of the time they don't have what I want.

As a result, I order most of my books online in an impersonal setting. I don't get to browse physical bookshelves, smell the paper, handle the merchandise, or find some hidden treasure in a pile of neglected words.

There's something that bothers me about the "McDonaldization" of chain bookstores. It's as though large bookstore chains have no personality of their own. Instead, they are corporate money-making machines. But maybe that is where quaint bookstores went wrong. Do local bookstores deserve to die? Are they worth saving?


pBerry said...

It's a shame to watch the downtown stores die. For a variety of reasons, they just keep dropping off. But some have survived by adapting. Some of the most successful bookstores (like Barnes and Noble or locally in COS, Poor Richards) have married coffee to the selling of books. And it has done them well.
In a capitalist society, theoretically one only survives on merit. This may not be as true as it used to be. But I hope more local bookstores will adapt instead of dying.

Jeff LaSala said...

It is a terrible shame. I used to work at Borders, years ago, and I liked it precisely because was comfortable (as compared to the more traditional, almost library-like Barnes & Noble), and therefore less formal.

My wife still works at Borders now, and she used to be the special orders clerk of the store. But everything's changed. Not only has her job been phased out (if you want to buy a book the store doesn't have, you have to input your credit card via an in-store kiosk which accesses Borders.com), but all of the informality is sinking away. Now employees are required to greet every customer they encounter, offer assistance aggressively (I hate that), and try to pitch customers specific, publisher-driven books whether the employee knows anything about it (much less likes it) themselves.

I could go on. It's a travesty. For my wife, it's made her job pretty hellish. I couldn't tolerate it myself.

Robert Velarde said...

I worked in libraries for several years and loved being surrounded by books. My home is something like than now -- books all over the place. As Cicero said, "A room without books is like a body without a soul." I do lament the loss of good bookstores. And I would like them to survive. But they are dwindling.