The Descent of the Brick-and-Mortar Bookstore

Well, Squiders, we’ve all seen it. First the little bookstores died when the big box bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders came in. And then even Borders went under, and the industry generally despairs of there being physical bookstores in as little as twenty, ten, five years.

I’m beginning to think it’s self-perpetuating.

The Terror and I headed over to my local B&N this morning. (I’m not going to lie, Squiders, I’m having the worst time finding a copy of Castle in the Air for our readalong this month. I checked two different library systems–both of which had Howl’s and The House of Many Ways, go figure–the Kindle Lending Library, my local used bookstores. Nothing. I’m going to have to buy it off the Internet, which brings me back to the point of this post.) I have not been in my B&N for probably over a year. (This is, admittedly, because I am trying not to acquire new books until I dequire some of the ones I already own and not because I dislike B&N.)

I didn’t recognize the place.

My first thought was, “Where are the books?”

The whole middle part of the store is now dominated by a Nook display. It was huge, with at least three employees working it, and shelves of who knows what (because I was afraid to go in lest I get a sales pitch). Nooks, maybe. Fake mock-ups of ebooks. I don’t know. The right side of the store is dominated by a very busy Starbucks, and there was stationary and maps and little gifts. When I made my way back to the children’s section, there was not a book to be found. Instead, there was a giant toy section, happily attended by several children playing with the displays.

(I did eventually find the children’s books, now relegated to the back, left corner.)

I know that bookstores are diversifying to stay afloat. I mean, you can’t find one that isn’t also a coffee shop to save your life. (I can’t really fault them that. I love coffee shops.) But it becomes a problem when you have to cut your book supply to the point where people can’t find the books they’re looking for.

If you want a recent best seller, great. They have those. But this isn’t a rare book I’m looking for. It’s a book by a best-selling children’s author, where the third book in the series is only a few years old, and it was nowhere to be found. In fact, they didn’t have a single book by Diana Wynne Jones in the entire store. It’s not like it’s out of print or so old everyone’s forgotten about the series. But alas, my brick-and-mortar store couldn’t accommodate me, and so I will have to go online.

You cut down on the books to make room for diversification, but then you don’t have the books people want, so people buy less books, so you have to get rid of more books to diversify some more…

…you see where I’m going?

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