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Thursday, January 08, 2009

RANT: WHY WE NEED BOOKSTORES

Alright, this is not strictly genealogy but this has been bugging me now
for a few days and in a way it does relate to how we research.

I work for a major bookstore chain that's been going through some tough
times for awhile but is still around and fighting to stay that way. Recently
I've been looking at some of online financial analysis and message boards
and have been dumbfounded at some of the comments I've read from the
"professionals" and others on retail bookselling.

Nobody under the age of 30 reads books for pleasure. They read more
online.

Really? So all those people who have been reading the Twilight, Harry
Potter, Clique, and Gossip Girls series are all over 40? The kids who
put a reservation in for the next Wimpy Kid book are actually adult
midgets?

Most people buy their bestsellers at Costco or Wal-Mart or some other
discount store.

And where do they buy the older books that aren't on the best seller list?
Where do the students buy their summer reading list books?

The day of the bricks and mortar bookstore is over. More and more
people will buy their books from Amazon and other online dealers.

Not everyone has a computer. And not all of those who do feel comfortable
buying online. And there are countless people for whom browsing in a
bookstore is the only way they choose and purchase a book.

Hand held electronic readers with downloadable ebooks will replace
traditional books.

Not until the prices drop much lower and every book is available in
a universal format that works on any reader. And can you see a 6
year old reading Junie B Jones on her Dad's Kindle? Thought not.
Neither can I.

People should save money by using their local libraries.

A good thought except that one of the first areas town governments cut
funding is the library. They cut back hours, staff, and budget, so you
might have a copy of a hot bestseller at your library, but you have to go
on a waiting list to read it and be able to get there when the library is
open. Given the current economic crisis, that is going to be much more
common nation wide.

There are other reasons why we need bookstores, both the national chain
I work for and the smaller local stores. It would be disastrous for new
writers who will find it more difficult to get their books out in the
public eye, for example, and make it less likely that many older authors'
books stay in print and available. And of course from a genealogist's
viewpoint, it would be harder for us to find the history books we use to
fill in the background of the times our ancestors lived in.

One of America's great strengths has been the easy availability of books
to all classes through bookstores and libraries. To think it is no great loss
if there are less bookstores because of the reasons I mentioned is to
ignore the effect it would have on our country's future.

6 comments:

Apple said...

I'll admit that I buy most of my books online but that is mostly because I live so far from a book store. I can't imagine taking an ebook to the beach.

Becky Jamison said...

There's nothing like walking into a bookstore and "Smelling" the books". Holding a book in our hand, opening it for the first time, turning the pages...ahhh! I'll never read a book that I'm not holding in my hand (I don't think).

Greta Koehl said...

Here is one person who is not going to switch to e-books. My teenage daughters also prefer paper books, although the younger one still likes a few "books on tape" in addition for books that have become her favorites.

I'm still upset because our local used bookstore closed; many record, tape, & CD stores have closed as well. There's nothing like a real bookstore or music store (I like the ones where you can put a CD under a reader and hear a few samples). For books, my husband and I only go online for certain specialty (= mostly genealogy or history) books. Unfortunately, because I like certain types of music that are difficult to find in stores here, I have to order CDs online for the most part. It's nice to touch and see what you want to buy!

Brenda said...

Right on, Bill. Nothing will ever replace ambient browsing in a bookstore or the comfort of reading a book in bed!

ET said...

Just the sheer pleasure of holding a book in your hands is irreplaceable - and I'm in heaven when I'm browsing through the bookshelves of a bookstore - whether it's one of the big chains or a second-hand book dealer.
I'm a teacher and just this afternoon it was such a joy to see 29 11 year olds with their heads in chapter 15 of Harry Potter.
I'm doing my bit for the next generation, Bill!
Evelyn in Montreal
A Canadian Family

Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

I work for both an academic library which puts most of its "book" money into electronic databases and a public library which struggles to be open five days a week. I agree with Becky, I love walking into a book store-new or used books and browse and search and browse and search....You just never know what treasure you will discover...thanks for the great post!