Monday, July 18, 2011

The Last Of Borders' Stores To Close

Are brick and mortar bookstores dead?

It is undeniable that the book industry had changed. How we read books. How we write books. How we publish. How we sell - and who sells - books. Everything has changed. And people are exclaiming the end of the printed book.

Now, another bookstore has fallen, and some are proclaiming this is it - the end of a lifestyle. According to NPR,

Laura Bartell, a bankruptcy law professor at Wayne State University, told the Detroit Free Press, "The physical bookstore has become a thing of the past."
Is she right? Or is this merely another change?

Does the fall of the giant, national bookstores mean there is no need for bookstores at all? Or is this another restructuring and an opportunity for the readers and the writers to take back the bookstore - to make it what we want and need. Our vision - not the corporate vision.


Yesterday I read an article about an author who recently opened a bookstore. A writer friend described the opening, which included two authors' readings, and how this bookstore was a part of the community. Then today I read about Borders closing - which I think we all saw coming after the buyout deal failed last week.

My hope is that this is an opportunity for us to take back the books. To take back the bookstore. Don't get me wrong - I'm not starting an argument for or against electronic books and readers. I've heard pros and cons, I have my preferences; and I know some really valuable reasons why the e-book readers are a wonderful invention for some people.

I am saying - don't take away the printed book, the community and culture of writing and printing and reading. Don't force us to be any more dependent on technology than we already are. As long as there is something to write or draw on and something to write or draw with, we can have written communication - reminders, stories, something to pass on. After the batteries have died, we've dropped the device in the toilet, it's raining outside, the backlight burns out, we lose the signal while the book is being downloaded ... we still have oral stories. We have the dirt, sand, shale, chalk, pieces of cement. Leaves. Charcoal. Tree bark shed in wind storms. Natural chalk. Reeds.

One thing for sure - this is a time of change. The publishing industry has been changing drastically since about 2008 from what I've heard. Which has made some major changes for writers and readers. And change isn't all bad.

I try not to be one who falls for "the sky is falling" doom and gloom predictions. I have been, in the past - but have learned better. So - Borders has fallen; B&N and Amazon are still selling books online. Small bookstores have gone away; new ones are cropping up.

Maybe I'm lucky to live in the Land of Powell's Books - who have had a viable online presence for a number of years, in addition to the big downtown store and the smaller neighborhood and specialty bookstores. We've lost smaller bookstores and we still have a couple or a few long-time independents.

I don't (want to?) believe that bookstores are going away forever. But they sure are changing. There is more to bookstores than the chain giants. And Christi Craig's post about the writer's new bookstore in her home town was one inspiring story about how bookstores are not a thing of the past.