"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bookstores Closing

Recently I found this article about Barnes & Nobles closing one-third of their bookstores over the next decade. For writers, as well as readers, I think this is some very disheartening news. The industry is trending toward ebooks, and while readers can still buy “real” books from Amazon and other stores online, the ambiance of the physical bookstore can never be replaced. It was bad enough to see all the independent bookstores and small chains like B. Dalton fall by the wayside, but now to hear that Barnes & Noble is closing stores is the final blow.

I, for one, will certainly miss wandering through bookstore aisles looking at the thousands of books and discovering many I would not have discovered otherwise. It’s also a nice place to meet with a writing friend for coffee and discuss books, works in progress, and exchange manuscripts. And I wonder, where will we gather for booksignings when all the bookstores close? But then, I guess that question even becomes obsolete, doesn't it? Maybe authors will be able to sign ebooks electronically. Perhaps it’s already being done and I’m just behind the times.

There are positive things about ebooks and being able to shop online. For writers, it’s a real boon to be able to re-issue our backlist as ebooks and reach a new audience who might not have read them in original paperback. You can carry a lot of books on your reader when you travel. You can make the font as big as you’d like to ease eyestrain. The downside for me is that the battery seems to always be dead just when I want to read, or it goes dead while I’m reading. And if you’re out on the beach or at the cabin in the mountains, chances are there’s no electrical outlet. It’s hard to “scroll” through an ebook, or to look back at something from previous chapters. When I’m finished reading an ebook, I don’t feel as if I really read a book. I just read “something” but it wasn’t a book.

Even as big bookstores go out of business, I suspect that we might see the re-emergence of small, independent bookstores that carry some rare, specialty, or regional books. And, at least for a while, there will be used bookstores. Sooner or later when there are no books to be had, used bookstores will die out too.

I used to take my books in for trade to the used bookstores but I think I’m going to keep what I have and any more I buy. Who knows, maybe my great-grandchildren will find these “paper” books and be totally fascinated by them. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll curl up in a favorite chair with that “real” book in their hands and their connection to the story will be made greater because they are actually holding the story and the characters in their hands. One can always hope.

"Traditional Chesterfield Armchair" -Marcus-  Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net