Surprise! I’m not going to talk about the “Make it New” campaign this time (though you can keep that in the back of your mind, if you wish…). No, this is a matter that should concern all of us obsessed bibliophiles—particularly in those burgs where Borders and Barnes & Noble moved in and rode all the independent bookstores out of town on a rail. Borders is gone.
Guess what? As the former owner of two independent bookstores crushed under the big money-bloated butts of B. Dalton and Waldenbooks when they arrived as anchoring ballast attached to the eye-sore-grotesqueries of sprawling Shopping Malls, I know a little bit about these things. (Pssst: And where are B. Dalton and Waldenbooks now, by the way?)
Now, as our friends at Melville House point out,
Maybe you’ve noticed that there seem to be a lot of Barnes & Noble superstores closing lately? Not just stores in remote locations (like, say … in rural upstate New York), but in some of the nation’s largest metropolitan shopping areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Seattle, Chicago, two stores in Dallas, another in Austin, and Manhattan. And that’s just in the last 30 days or so.
What had been a slow shrinkage as leases ran out—a store here, a store there—turned into an avalanche after Thanksgiving. Stores that should have been well-stocked for the holidays were instead out of inventory and passing time until the end of the year.
Maybe it’s just sentimental old once-upon-a-time-bookstore-owning me, but bookstores are very special places—akin to and better than cathedrals, and no one is going to convince me otherwise. And even though some may call it heresy, and while I still prefer an independent bookstore with an owner I can chat with about books and authors, and poetry and poets—even the somewhat sterile, corporate Nook-pushing Barnes & Noble is better than nothing, people!
Yes, you may have to engage a couple of worker-bees in a Barnes & Noble before you find one who loves books as much as you do—but they are there. Really, what better way to spend a rainy afternoon, or spend an hour waiting for the kids while they’re at the dentist, or having some time after having dropped the spouse off at work—what better way to spend your time than picking up a cup of coffee, heading into your nearest bookstore, and massively zenning out surrounded by shelf after shelf of books?
And, you know what? It’s all right to have a particular book in mind—and you know what else? If they don’t have it, they can order it for you. Are we all really in such a slam-bang, have-it-now, instant gratification, all-fired whiz-splat hurry that we must have that book this very moment or we’re going to puddle into an unscrapable grease-spot on the carpet? And what’s the difference between waiting for an Amazon delivery or waiting for the book to arrive in the store—where you go pick it up, and maybe find something else you’d like to read?
A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking.
The smallest bookstore still contains more ideas of worth than have been presented in the entire history of television.
What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore it knows it’s not fooling a soul.
I love walking into a bookstore. It’s like all my friends are sitting on shelves, waving their pages at me.
We lose bookstores and we lose an awful lot of who we are as civilized human beings. And I’m going to end this now. I’ll meet you at the bookstore?