Demise of (mega)bookstores (but not books)

“When I was growing up, record stores were a place you could hang out. In a really great store — one of those big city leviathans spread over several stories — you could spend the best part of a day flipping through the racks looking for hard-to-find records, obscure titles, things you’d never even heard of.

“Teenagers today probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Who goes to a record store? Why don’t you just download your music onto your iPod?

“As recently as 2001 there were music stores everywhere. As many as 80,000 people worked in them, according to the Labor Department. And that was a number that had been steady for years.

“In 2002 the iPod took off. Today the number working in music stores is 20,000 — a 75% collapse.

“As for the book industry: About 125,000 people still work in book stores and news dealers, according to Labor. How many of them will still have jobs in two years? Another 75,000 work in book publishing. When writers self-publish in electronic format, how many publishers will still be left?”
Get ready for the bookstore massacre
Commentary: E-books are the future and Amazon dominates
, by By Brett Arends, August 17, 2010 (via PWxyz)

I think the model is changing to POD bookstores. Places where you browse the models (like haute couture), pick out what you want and have a cup of tea while it’s printed and bound in the back. There’s a bookstore with an Espresso machine like that in NYC right now, I just read about it at PWxyz last week. I think what will survive in the future are small bookstores, used bookstores, bookstores that sell other things or services, concert venues with bookstores, whatnots with bookstores, etc. Full disclosure: I never go to bookstores, but I would like to be able to if I’m ever so inclined. One of my favorite bookstores on Earth is at Beyond Baroque, but I never get there unless there’s a poetry reading I drag myself out to, which is seldom. But they have books, chapbooks, zines, and other cool book-like things of poetry that I can never find online and that I wouldn’t buy if I wasn’t able to flip through it standing in the store. I buy a lot of poetry there that way; it’s wonderful. So Long Live the Bookstore – Adapt or Die.

PS. I also don’t think eBooks are going to destroy print books. Unless we all end up living in sterile underground chambers where we read from screens suspended over our biochambers (or something – who knows?) I believe print books will be around for quite a while yet. We’re not hardwired to read books (books haven’t been around long enough) but the habit and the kinetic experience of reading paper books goes deep most readers. Shopping in bookstores is a luxury. The physical/emotional/intellectual experience of reading a paper book is almost a need. Childrens books, for example, how many copies of Goodnight Moon have been lovingly mauled over the years? Pop-up books will become museum pieces because there are no pop-up books in eBook format.

Lastly, if you drop your book in the bathtub, that’s one book. Drop your iPad, that’s your whole library, the iPad and whatever else you had on the iPad. So there!

(Also possibly of interest: Paper Freaks in the Digital Age, by Ginger Mayerson, J LHLS, Fall 2004)

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