Monday, May 9, 2011

Are Bookstores a Thing of the Past?

Today a girl at work asked where the closest Barnes & Noble was. Her query was quickly answered and sparked a discussion about our favorite bookstores and what we liked the most about them. The scent of brewing coffee, the soft rustling of pages, and the muted voices of fellow customers, to name a few.  Out of nowhere, one guy, let's call him "John," piped up and said, "I always laugh when I see people buying books at bookstores." Excuse me? I thought, what do you think bookstores are for?? He went on to say he thought it was pointless to buy a book when you can borrow it from a library. I was a little shocked by his attitude. I just can't imagine someone who loves reading not understanding the emotional journey you go through while you read a new book. And when you've finished it it's not just a book anymore, it's an old friend, a reference (if you're like me and make notes in the margins), and a fond memory. Can a library book really be all of those things? And who likes to say good bye to a good friend?

I think "John" sensed my indignity and quickly said, "I mean, books just take up so much space. I don't want to have to lug them around with me everywhere I go. I have enough stuff already."

hmm... yeah, well I guess that's a good point. But, wait, is it not everyone's dream to have a gorgeous library, reminiscent of the one from Beauty and The Beast, in their house someday?

I guess not. While I appreciate the new formats books are taking (e-readers, audiobooks, etc.) I'm not sure the new technology will ever replace the traditional book for me. But maybe people like "John" will be more willing to own and cherish books if hundreds of them fit into a small handheld device.


  1. I'm completely with you about owning the books. Its just different when you have a wall of books that you have read that you can look at the titles and broken spines and remember good times with them. I have been getting more into audio books because of the convenience but it still just feels like something is missing. It makes me wonder, is the paper and ink part of the experience that makes reading so great? I think so.

  2. I think that people will always want physical books, but I don't think that we'll always have physical bookstores to shop for them. The limited selection at Target and Walmart might stay around, but Barnes and Noble and Borders are stores that are fighting losing battles against and other online stores, including their own. There are also things like the paperback book exchange that lets you trade books with others across the country. Used books are much cheaper than new and online books can almost always be found cheaper than they are in an actual store. It's too bad because I love bookstores, but I don't think we'll have them around much longer.

  3. Is this a bit like the controversy that happened when paperback books flooded the market and cheapened the dignity fo hardback books?

  4. Andrea and I were having the exact conversation the other day about books. When you think about it, we didn't always have books. Books were only for those who could, A read, and B had money. Books were not available to everyone. We have books in abundance now. Shelves full of books. Many books that I own I have never read. Looking around I am beginning to think that we might come full circle. I don't think books will ever completely disappear, I think they might start to become a rare commodity.

  5. It really seems to be the opinion of the individual against the opinion of the crowd to me. I personally love my overladen bookcases and cannot imagine parting with all of my beloved books and the physical experience of holding that book in your hands, filled with pages of endless ideas. The digital book experience just is not the same for me, but more and more people are being converted to the digital format every day. Like many things, only time will really tell.