I Still Love Bookstores!

My favorite Chicago Borders bookstore is closing this month. After a one year extension, the end of the line is finally here and I’m very sad to see it go. I’ve always spent a lot of money on books, real paper, printed books! I love books, and the physical form of a book is still something that gives me a pleasure that can’t be duplicated in the digital form. I love eBooks too, but it’s a different and still evolving experience. My love of physical books is refined and mature.

There’s a Borders near my house which, while a wonderful space, simply does not have the selection of manga that my downtown Borders did. Manga, Japanese graphic novels, are very slowly making their way into legitimate eBook stores. Illegal, scanned translations abound on the internet, but I prefer to avoid these. So for now, I still buy these in bookstores and therein lies my problem. The closing of my favorite Borders leaves me no other choice but to buy manga online from Amazon.com. The remaining book stores in my area don’t have the titles I want anymore!

Peter Osnos at the Atlantic has written a wonderful analysis of What Went Wrong at Borders. Like many failing businesses, what was once a successful company has not thrived under the management of people who did not understand or have a passion for the underlying enterprise. Competitor Barnes & Noble seems to have handled the transition to online book selling and the rise of eBooks somewhat better than Borders.

I would like to see Borders and Barnes & Noble both survive and evolve. I still love bookstores and hope to spend many more hours in them in the future, browsing and buying books whether physical or digital in their form. It’s hard to see what form bookstores will evolve into. I suppose the era of the mega-bookstore is over. Maybe a smaller, boutique style store that blends digital offerings with physical copies of best sellers by the most popular authors, is the way of the future. Imagine a coffee shop with a couple of racks of books where one can buy eBooks on your Kindle, Nook, or iPad at a discount if you do it over the local hot spot. Barnes & Noble already does something like this in their stores, but I think the stores themselves are still too big.

Only the future will tell how this all plays out. My neighborhood still has a number of independent bookstores. Maybe it’s time I introduce them to my kids!

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