Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whither the bookstore, great and small?

The fabulous Laura Bradford (one of our fabulous stiletto wearers) and I had the opportunity to do a book signing at a local independent bookstore here in the Hudson Valley.  The bookstore is tucked into a strip of independently owned stores on a lovely street in a town not far from here, and is a genuine friend to the local—and not so local—writer.  Every time I’ve asked the owners if I can sign has been met with a resounding “yes” and they do everything they can to get people into the store to turn new readers on to authors they may not know or have heard of previously.

Business was brisk this past Saturday and I was happy to see that even though I’m sure Saturday is the busiest day for a lot of local retailers with weekdays being more stress-inducing in their quietude.  I worry a lot about the state of the brick-and-mortar stores, particularly independents, but even my local Barnes and Noble where I can be found laden down with purchases when I’m up at the big strip mall north of here.  But is the next generation that we’re raising full of the same love of the bookstore or will they be inured to the pleasures of holding a book in their hands, flipping through the pages, looking at the cover?

First, our local Borders went out of business, then two independents in nearby towns.  As someone posted online, it is a lot more fun to take your kids to a bookstore than to show them a book on a computer screen.  It is definitely more enjoyable to hold a book in your hand, or see the cover in person, than to move it from its place online to your virtual shopping cart.  In my opinion, anyway.  Are we slowly losing the ability to do that?

I logged on to Facebook today to see that several of my literary-minded friends had posted that Barnes and Noble is planning on closing at least twenty stores this year with the goal being to bring their approximately 680 stories down to 450 to 500 over time. I wondered if this would be a boon to the independents, the bookstore owners fighting the good fight all these years against the big-box stores and online retailers or if it spells the end of the bookstore ultimately. 

I’m a book person; always have been.  Although I now own a Kindle and download my fair share of books, I still buy books by the dozens every year.  My family is the same way.  There is no feeling like bringing home a bag of books, a feeling that trumps and Amazon or B&N box arriving on your front steps.  When I go out of town, I shop in bookstores, I go to libraries. I know a lot of you are the same way.

So, I wonder about the future of bookstores, big and small, but to be honest, I am more in fear for the smaller bookstores in our little villages and towns, the ones where the owner knows your name, what you like to read, if your favorite author has a new book coming out that you should know about.  Let’s all do our part to keep our indies alive, and books on shelves where we can touch them and peruse them and admire their beautiful covers, one and all.

Maggie Barbieri


  1. I feel the same way. It's the best feeling to go to my local Books a Million or Barnes and Noble(no independent bookstores left) and come home with a lovely bag of books. I also love the feel of books in my hand and hope that our bookstores never go out of business. I do my share to keep them open! By the way, I love your series...........

  2. Thank you! "Lovely bag of books"...I couldn't have said it better myself! :-) I do love my e-reader because of its immediacy; if I see a book reviewed, I can immediately download it. But not being able to see the cover and hold the book in my hands is definitely a drawback. Maggie

  3. Amen!

    I don't want to ever imagine a world without bookstores...

  4. This was the first year that only one of my grandkids' Christmas stockings included books. The others preferred gift cards so they could order books for their e-readers, although I fear even those will be spent on games. It's the future and it saddens me.

  5. LD, I know...the kids do prefer gift cards. I have to say, though, that my kids inherited my love of bookstores. When my daughter was deciding on a college, she, my son, and I took a ride to the one school she kept returning to in her mind. She was on the fence that day and my son pointed to two indies and said to her, "What could be better? The town's got two bookstores!" She decided on the way home that the school was her choice. Was it the bookstores? Who knows. But it certainly didn't hurt. Maggie

  6. I'm like Laura--I don't want to ever imagine a world without bookstores. We're lucky in Kansas City. We still have four independent bookstores, plus four used bookstores that do community events and six B&Ns and one BooksAMillion store. But this is down from 8 indies, 9 used, 8 B&Ns, 1 BAM, and 8 Border's. I'm sure we'll lose most of our B&Ns in the big closings to come. Sad, sad!

  7. Hey, there, Mags (and pals):

    1) I like my Nook, especially for reading The New Yorker mag and, a BIG and, for huge books, like the recently published Far From the Tree.
    2) I still buy classic paper books, and as often as I can I buy hardcoer.
    3) My best local Indie store has a $5 a year membership that gets you 10% off always and jumps that to 20% off a couple of times a year. So, that's nice.

    We're sort of talking about two things here: the unstoppable evolution to new, techno delivery systems for the written word and how we BUY and attain the written word. So, I've started splitting my spending. Every month I buy some ebooks, some traditional books at near full price from my Indie, and finally some books a on-line discount rates. I want to support the Indie, but I also want to save a bit of money. I want the easy of reading a book fast and without giving myself a strain lugging them around on trips. I want the wonderful nostalgia of holding in my hands that thing that Garrison Keillor once called "as durable as a turtle" once.

    I hope this is a good and fair and sustainable approach, but I'm open to tweaking my methods!

  8. Book stores ----I like the way it smells when you first walk in the door. I am a bookaholic. I am a book junky. But, I received a Kindle as a gift, and I use it. I can find authors that I would not find in my local book stores. And it makes me feel disloyal. I am not sure to what or whom I am being disloyal, but I do feel that way.

    Overall, I live in fear that someday down the road, there will be no more book stores and no place for me to go and spend time simply walking up and down aisles finding things that make me smile.

  9. Vicky, your buying habits make me smile. I know that those of us in the "biz," like you and I are/were, are very loyal to our print books. But I have started to feel like e-readers bring more people more authors and that's a good thing. Annette, you're not disloyal as long as you're reading. That's my motto! Maggie

  10. Maggie - thank for posting. I think you're bring up a point that a lot of us writers and readers alike have been afraid to say out ten years time will there be bookstores around?

    For me, I think of libraries and I say, how sad would it be if they somehow ceased to exist?