Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I'm not saying the bookstore is dead but...

Bookstores received bad news regarding their February sales. Apparently, they have been exempt from the retail sector’s slow recovery.

I feel for bookstores. Publishers have wrung their hands over Amazon and e-books, but they only need to acclimate. Bookstores’ livelihoods are threatened by these new outlets and technologies.

Even if paper books ceased to exist, someone would still need to create content. (As a writer for a newspaper, this is the one thought that calms me.) But bookstores have become increasingly marginalized.

Sites like Amazon make brick-and-mortar sites unnecessary. You don’t need a physical store to download an e-book, and traditional books can usually be found cheaper on the Internet.

This makes me sad because I like bookstores. I like browsing the shelves and asking people who work there for suggestions. I like to sample books by reading a few pages.

Yes, I suppose you can do all of that online, except the Web site dictates what and how many pages I can sample before I buy. Amazon certainly isn’t devoid of opinions or suggestions. (Some of them are even helpful.)

I survived when my favorite music store closed, though I listen to fewer new artists as a result. I survived when the local video rental store closed. I will survive if my local bouquiniste closes, but I’ll be poorer for it.

One bright note for bookstores — the Guardian has suggested there may be hope in finding a niche. Sure, the linked story is about British political bookstores and may not apply stateside; but if chains are struggling, the answer may be to go small.

A few unrelated notes before I leave you. GalleyCat wants your help writing the world’s longest literary remix.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least link to the Pulitzer winners.

-Jason Lea

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