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February 24th, 2011

Are National Bookstores Going Away?

Back when I was a sophomore in high school, we needed a particular version of Cliff’s Notes for The Merchant of Venice. This version couldn’t be bought at the Waldenbooks in our local mall, but I was able to do a special order through Borders. I remember my parents and I went to the Borders out in Oakbrook, Illinois – which, as it turns out, was the first Borders in Chicagoland. It was glorious. It was huge. It had a cafe! And multiple floors! And just about everything one needed was right there, it seemed. Just amazing.

Today, though, Borders is in bankruptcy and Barnes and Noble had a really lousy quarter – so bad they aren’t estimating how their next quarter will be.

Let’s be blunt: the internet is eating B&M bookstores’ business for lunch. And breakfast. And dinner. And they’re just left with a little appetizer, which is really just a few M&Ms. Mini M&Ms, in fact, which I can order – along with a planet’s worth of booksfrom Amazon.

I can’t help but wonder if national bookstore chains are going to be on the out soon. B&N is trying hard to remake itself as a digital company which also sells books and magazines (good luck with that,) and Borders just missed that entire boat. But what if those stores are gone, leaving only Amazon and their .coms in their wake, along with independent bookstores? That might not be all that bad, really: bibliophiles could be served by both local, community-based stores and online options – along with libraries, natch – and casual readers could definitely head into the online and ebook realm.

In any case, the mega bookstore as we knew it is toast. Hope you enjoyed it.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

Ryan February 24, 2011, 11:11 am

Honestly, I don’t feel a huge sadness from the big stores dying out and losing to online retailers. However, I’ve also seen a lot of independent book stores locally failing miserably over recent years. Granted, I don’t think any of them did it “right” (ie. the way I would have done it), but still.

Ideally, new book purchases would be satisfied primarily by online retailers with maybe one large chain store nearby. Used book and specialty book purchases could be handled by independent stores. Where ebooks fit into all this, I’m still not sure… Barnes and Noble’s approach to letting you view any book in their catalog on their Nook when you’re in one of their stores is a neat approach.

Too much additional thought required.

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