Following up on John’s post (and subsequent discussion) concerning the predicament of Barnes and Noble, which seems to be getting a taste of its own medicine as e-books and online book buying may relegate the superstore concept as nostalgic as the local independent book dealer, is this article from The New York Times. What’s interesting is the prediction that despite the growing acceptance of reading on handheld screens and website ordering, surviving independent stores may still flourish because of their personalized service to niche customers.
Makes sense. Every time I go into an independent bookstore, I feel compelled to buy something even if I already have to many books I haven’t read yet, much less that I could get the book cheaper online (or even at Barnes and Noble). One reason I like to support these guys is that there’s something very attractive about “non-chain store” shopping, where owners have put their own individual stamp on the presentation and perusal of their wares.
True, they may not be as deep stocked as B&N (or at least used to be). But, funny how the books they do carry in the fiction section are almost exactly the kinds of things I’m interested in.
To give B&N its due, though, I always thought it conveyed more a sense of a traditional bookshop than its much more troubled competitor, Borders. (Gone into one lately? It’s like Waldenbooks on steroids, meaning appealing to the lowest common denominator is even more depressing when it’s bloated with stationary and puzzles). And the people who worked there do seem to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about books, unlike some of the clueless clerks you might find in a mall record store (do they still have those?).
As for what will happen to the physical book once we’re all reading on our Kindles or iPads or inner eyelid digital display inlays, check out this article by Rob Walker, also from theTimes. I particularly like the idea of using an old discarded book to house your Kindle. And that someone could actually sell it for $25.
See, all those books bending your bookshelves do have some future value. Get ’em while you can.