Monday, August 8, 2011

State of the Bookstore

I started to comment on a recent post about the current Nook look of Barnes & Noble (thank you, Becca) and realized I had more to say than would fit into a comment. Sometimes blogging inspiration comes so doggone easy!

My local B&N looks just like hers, especially with the glare of the e-reader sales counter the moment you hit the door. I automatically brace myself for a car dealer-style onslaught, but so far they have kept their distance as I sail by. Perhaps it is the look in my eye that says "Paper all the way!"  Fewer CDs, more toys and games, lots of magazines, and less depth in the book selection than I would like.

On the other hand, the staff is uniformly cheerful and helpful, and I still enjoy going there on occasion. I don't buy nearly as many new books as I used to, to the point that I didn't renew my membership in the discount card this year.  It would take me quite a while to pay off the $25 fee at the rate I'm going, so there didn't seem to be much point.

I'm reading as much as ever, if not more, but I just don't buy new books anymore.  I swap most of what I read, or I buy used on the internet. It's cheaper and more environmentally conscious, and I'm happy to support a direct sale from an independent instead of patronizing a large chain. Even without an e-reader, I've changed my habits.

On the other hand, our local independent closed in the past year (I never bought there--it stocked nothing but the latest bestsellers and fluffy gift books), and I just heard that the largest used bookstore in town is also going out of business. A recent article in the local paper (which is also feeling the pinch) said other new and used local booksellers are barely hanging on.

And of course, there's Borders.  They are at the deep discount stage now, and I dropped in over the weekend to see what I might want to take home.  Clearance is in full swing, with sparsely filled shelves and "boxes arriving daily from the warehouse." The cafe is closed and full of stacked furniture, which is also for sale.  (If only I had room for one of those wonderful blonde display tables somewhere in my house! I wanted one so badly!) 

The store was a mess and the employees were downright surly. I'm sure they are in major triage mode, as well as angry and brokenhearted to be losing their jobs, and perhaps they are resentful that customers are now flocking in like vultures to buy on sale what they wouldn't buy at full price.  I can certainly understand all  of that. It made me feel sad. It left kind of a bad impression, too. Instead of feeling nostalgic for what used to be my favorite bookstore, I was kind of glad I would never need to go back there. I bought a book and got out.

Post Script: After I wrote this post, I read Rebecca's darkly comic, saddening series about the last days of Borders from her perspective on the inside. Apparently I hugely underappreciated the damage customers in Full Bargain Hunting Mode can do to a bookstore and the psyches of the staff. I'm glad I was kind during my visit and didn't ask any stupid questions. Clearly, the booksellers have enough stress already.  Read it and weep.   

1 comment:

  1. This post touched a nerve with me. I always feel as though I should have done more shopping when a store that I like - or I'm sure I would like if I bought those products - is forced to close. Not that my pitiful buying spree would have made any difference in the great scheme of things but one wonders. It must be really soul-destroying to have the bargain hunters descend to pick over the carcass.

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