Monday, April 27, 2009

Another View on the Dying Bookstore

There's been much talk about independents unable to compete with the big boys and chains such as Borders in serious trouble and closing many of their stores.

However, my husband offered up another theory regarding the fate of the bookstore.

He points to what has happened with the music industry.

Remember how there used to be multiple 'record' stores in every town? What happened?

The Internet.

Music stores can only carry so much inventory - it costs money. So they cannot carry the variety of music one can find online. And if you are seeking a band that does not reside in the top 40, you'll probably have to turn to the Web to find it. Yes, it may take a couple days to receive a CD, but the store will take just as long to get it in stock, too.

I-Tunes and music downloads have changed the face of music as well. Don't need a store for song files! And mp3 files are instant - no waiting! Just download a CD and listen. Or just pick one song rather than plunking down $15 for the whole CD.

Compare that to books. No store can carry the variety available online, whether it be Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or Powell's if you are seeking a used book. Yes, there's a few days of waiting for it to arrive, but if your local store doesn't carry the title...

Now we have E-Books in the mix as well. Again, no store needed. Instant download and gratification. And the price is lower than for the physical product.

And with 400,000 new books last year, no store can carry all those titles - so from an author's standpoint, the Internet has created a level playing field, just as it's done for a lot of bands and musicians.

I think it's an interesting theory. As my husband pointed out, we haven't purchased music in a physical store in years. And physical book purchases have only occurred because I visit a lot of stores for signings - otherwise, we order most books online, too. (Wish I could support my local independent, but sadly, we don't have one!)

What do you think?


  1. Enjoyed the post. I thought it was an interesting comparison and that you made a very good point.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  2. Yes, your post this morning prompted me. My husband had just voiced his opinion yesterday and I thought it was an interesting take!

  3. Hubby is right - good observation. I'm a musician and I buy all my music to listen to online anymore. I still enjoy browsing in a bookstore though, especially ones with a coffee & pastry bar where you can chill and read for a while.

  4. I still love a bookstore as well - ESPECIALLY if I can get coffee!

  5. Some of us dinosaurs simply must join the rest of the world. I have no ipod or iPhone or e-Reader. Guess I could download music and books to my computer, but I already do so much reading on my computer, I don't want to do more. But I will some day get a Kindle or iPhone or something, then I'll listen to music while reading a book while sipping mocha in a coffee shop while texting my bff.


  6. Good point, Diane! My son works for a popular R&B singer, and he's been telling me some of the same things your husband mentioned.

  7. I agree you made some good points. It's fun to go every now and then to a bookstore and look at the books firsthand, but other than that, I spend more time looking online, except when it comes to book signings by people I know.

    Morgan Mandel

  8. Bookstores of any ilk could up their weekly sales by anywhere from 5% to 25% by giving events for local authors who would act as their good will amabassadors, plan events, promote them, and even sell books for them.

    I'm sure of my facts because I used to be a retailer and am the author of "A Retailer's Guide to Frugal In-Store Promtotions."


  9. We have a local bookstore that does really well. The parking lot is always full!

    However, they have diversified (sell music, games and other items) and added a coffee bar.

    Also, Carolyn, they are very "author friendly" and regularly host events.

    And Diane, you are right, the times they are a changin'. I do a lot of on-line shopping for the convenience more than anything. But nothing beats getting your book insistently.

    I for one still want the cover and the pages to hold in my hands. I have been eyeing a Kindle, but not ready to plunk down the change yet.

  10. I still buy the majority of my music from the indie record shops in the little market town nearby and the city I work in. I buy occasional ones on line or from major stores.
    I buy my books at Waterstones, which is a big chain, but sadly the only indie book stores I have in either place are second hand. If we had indies, i'd gladly use them and wait. I do use Amazon for stuff that Waterstones can't get.