"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 


Will Edwinson said...

Hi Linda:

I can certainly empathize with your lament of the demise of traditional publishing and the brick and mortar bookstores.

Those electronic readers are nice in some ways, but they also have distinct disavantages. I have macular degeneration which makes reading the smaller print somewhat difficult, so the ability to increase the font size helps with that. At the same time, however, increasing the font size too much distorts the layout of the book causing any number of discombobulations. One of those being, it can distort attributions of different characters, as well as sometimes making POV confusing. This puts authors and editors in a bad light making them look like rank amateurs.

An example of this is a book I just finished reading by a best selling author who has 30 million copies of his books in print, so you know he is a major player. The enlarged font placed two different characters speaking on the same line of text which makes it confusing to the reader.

I've also found that increasing the font size distorts the pagenation, so one doesn't really know where he is in the book.

I, like you, don't feel like I've read a real book when I read it on Kindle. It seems there is a lack of connection, or something, I can't quite put my finger on it.

And as for booksignings, if autographing a book has to be done electronically, that leaves me out. I'm a total electronic and Internet idiot. Hell, it took me three months after I acquired my first Kindle to figure out how to charge the battery. How can I be expected to sign books electronically from afar.

As you said, one can only hope. There is an old saying: "what goes around, comes around." Maybe this generation that is so enamored with these electronic books will tire of them, and the old traditional book printing will come back into vogue. Sadly, enough, however, the bookstores will have all been torn down or converted to some other business, and will have to be replaced all over again, which will take many years and many dollars to accomplish.

LadyMac said...

This makes me sad. I like to hold the book also. It just isn't the same. I long for the good old days.

As for ebook publishing, that's not nearly as exciting as thinking of holding your book (all that hard work)in your hands rather than have it disappear onto the internet.

Thanks for the article though, Linda. It's good to know what's coming. We need to keep up with the trends and the news.

asabourova said...

Great post. It's very sad to see bookstores closing. I'm not sure that we will entirely lose print books, though. Too many people, young and old, love the feel of a "real" book and the joy of browsing a bookstore or library. As for myself, the format is less important than the content. A good book is a good book no matter what. These days, I often buy my favorite books in both versions (hard and soft). I prefer to read hard copy at home (it's more cozy). But I love my kindle for going places, especially for international travel as it allows me to take my entire library with me, rather than just one book (and I don't get charged overweight fees on the baggage!)

Linda Sandifer said...

That's wonderful, Amanda, that you buy a book in both formats. I think we'll still be able to get printed books but we might have to order them. Print-on-demand will likely become even more popular. If I'm doing research, I definitely prefer a hard copy of a book. Perhaps we'll end up with a good balance in the end. But I do see bookstores, and even libraries, becoming things of the past.

Anonymous said...

I hate that so many stores are folding. I'd rather have a book. It's easier for me to read. No glare.

Sherry R.

B.J. Anderson said...

I enjoy both formats, but love a real book best. I am an impulse buyer though, so ebooks are handy when I see something I want to read right now. When I'm doing research, I have to have the real book though, because it's so difficult to "flip" through an ebook, as you said. I really hope we see small bookstores pop back up. Yes, times are changing and sometimes that's difficult to keep up with!

Anonymous said...

I hate the thought of not being able to spend a leisure hour perusing the rows of books in a bookstore. I love the smell and feel of books. New media cannot compete. And I'm still not comfortable taking my iPad to the beach. Books wil always be my favorite read.

Dr. Professor said...

I agree – seeing a bookstore become a Halloween costume warehouse is disheartening at first. But I think that the closure of the big-box stores might actually bring about a re-birth of the small, independent bookstore. The kind of place that any of us who love books would love to frequent (or own). And an eReader is a useful tool, but you can't beat the tactile feel of a real book or perusing the 'stacks'. Sometimes there is more community than utility in the activity…