“THE END” for BookStores & Libraries?

Are large bookstore chains (once alight with the business of happily putting independent bookstores out of business) obsolete?

My photo of the Borders Bookstore that closed in the Castleton Mall of Indianapolis.

Seeing this bookstore closed for good reminded me of the movie: “You’ve Got Mail” (1998). The film was about the big bad super store (Fox Books) causing the charming little independent bookstore (Shop Around the Corner) to go out of business.

During the movie, one of the superstore owners says, “Aww, another independent bites the dust.” Then another owner says “On to the next!”

That part of the movie echoed with me as I took this photo which is when I decided to write a post about it.

The thing is, I am a fan of change. Of course I won’t even try to claim that it’s always easy (heh, if you only knew), but most of the time I think we don’t fully appreciate a situation until something changes and it no longer “is”. Sometimes, when we are lucky, we find out that the changes are for the best.

Brick and Mortar Bookstores & Libraries vs. Online Bookstores & Libraries

Inventory Selection

Libraries are great about having an enormous selection of books (even those out of print) are available to borrow even if they have to request a loan from another library.

Of course, the drawback of the library is simply that you have to give the book back. Sometimes it is preferable to own a copy. For example, my mother-in-law has a library that many small schools would be envious of, but she is always scouring eBay and used bookstores to buy copies of the readers that she had as a child.

The limitation of the selection of books at a bookstore verses the virtually limitless selection of books that can be bought online is a big draw back for the brick and mortar bookstore. To make up for that, many have incorporated the option to order a book for you that they don’t have in stock. This isn’t much of a solution for the bookstores though because it’s just as easy for most people to go to amazon.com or half.com and order what they need skipping the trip to the bookstore altogether.

The biggest con of online shopping or an online library is of course: the genuine value of face to face interaction.

Story Time

One thing that cannot really be duplicated at an online store is the simple age-old service provided by libraries and bookstores around the world: story-time.

Reading a book to a group of children is a rewarding experience. You have an opportunity to tell a story that they otherwise might never have heard.

Think about the powerful responsibility of this truth along with one of my favorite quotes from “You’ve Got Mail” about the heroine working in a bookstore with her mother.

“I started helping my mother after school here when I was six years old. And I used to watch her. And it wasn’t that she was just selling books, it was that she was helping people become whoever it was (that) they were going to turn out to be. Because when you read a book as a child it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does…and I…I have gotten carried away”

- Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) from the movie “You’ve Got Mail

Sales Associates

Bookstores often have sales associates that can be very helpful. Even online booksellers have toll free numbers and sales staff ready to chat with you and answer questions that you may have regarding a book you are looking for. And yet there is something more valuable about being helped one on one in real life isn’t there?

I have noticed that it is especially nice to find knowledgeable sales associates in the children’s section of a bookstore.

We were at a Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Bloomington, IN not long ago and my nine year old was discussing in depth books by Rick Riordan, Erin Hunter, and other authors she favors.

You see my daughter is a very good reader and has difficulty finding interesting books that are appropriate for both her age and reading level.

So when a saleswoman named Carrol proved to be extremely helpful because of her knowledge of the books my daughter learned of new authors and books with similar styles. We ended up going home with a few new books that she devoured right away.

Another unexpected perk of the visit was that we earned a free book after completing a form with 10 of the novels and authors that she had read over the summer. (Carrol knew that she had read that many because of their in depth discussion.) And I just noticed that she was reading that free one for a second time the last week.

Exposure to New Titles and Topics

Unfortunately some of the facts considered as the pros and cons of buying books online verses a bookstore often fit into both categories.

I really enjoy just browsing books on a web store or in real life to find books about things I didn’t even know I was interested in trying until I saw a book about it.

Do you know what I mean? Like I was on thinkgeek.com‘s book section and saw this book about how to pick locks. Its really something I never considered doing, but then I saw a book about it and it made me picture myself picking the lock off of one of those old-fashioned treasure boxes and made me want to check it out. :)

The other side of the argument:
Then again, why would I need to waste my time looking into subjects I know I will never ever find useful? At least I haven’t any real future plans to go lock picking or treasure hunting for that matter.

In conclusion of my post, I feel as if I have been typing a novel about this subject myself and have yet to scratch the surface of this economical situation. All I can say is, I won’t be surprised to see more and more bookstores close and will post more tomorrow about see fewer and fewer printed copies of books being sold.