Disappearing Bookstores
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Disappearing Bookstores

Why our bookstores are disappearing, and why you should care.

Disappearing Bookstores
O'Keefe Consulting

I grew up going to bookstores. There used to be several to choose from in my town, from giants like Barnes and Noble to local shops, whose small, claustrophobic aisles offered everything from bestsellers to old, donated books whose yellow pages perfumed the store. Every trip to any of these stores was an event, and it was an easy bargaining chip for my parents to play. A trip to the mall was a trip to Brentano's, and a trip to buy new school clothes meant an additional stop at the local Wordsworth next door. But most of the times we'd go just to go, because my parents love bookstores as much as I do.

Then, at some point, these stores began to disappear. The Brentano's left first, as far as I can remember, as Borders Group began to shutter its locations in the years leading up to its bankruptcy in 2011. Then Publisher's, a hole in the wall seller where I bought my first author signed copy of a novel, closed its doors not long after. And since then the bookstores have slowly disappeared one by one, until the only local place I had grown up going to left was Wordsworth. This week I found out my town's Books-a-Million was closing as well, and the closing of major bookstore chains is almost more worrying than the shuttering of local shops. Where are we if even the giants can't stay afloat?

Why are these shops closing? The answer is obvious as we observe the decline of the publishing industry and the rise in sales of ebooks. There's no denying the convenience of digital books and newspapers, and the Internet makes finding and buying your next read all the easier even if you do still want a physical copy. I can't pretend I've never bought books this way; it's cheaper and easier to buy your books online or in ebook form than to purchase from a bookstore. So why, then, is it so hard to see bookstores go? Maybe it's just the sentimental attachment we have to these places, but I'm not so sure. We're seeing an entire medium transform, and it's leaving behind the only places, apart from libraries, where book lovers come together. Bookstores allow you to feel the book before you buy it, to hold it in your hands and read the back cover, and allow you to know the person in the next aisle is doing the same thing. Ebooks and Amazon aid your love of books, but a real bookstore cultivates it, and encourages reading and literacy from people of all ages.

The brilliance in bookstores is that they grow up with you. I loved going to Barnes and Noble when I was little because it meant I also got to visit the Toys R Us next door. After properly observing all that the toy story had to offer, I'd walk over to the book store, and go back to the kid's section and peruse their offerings, and either settle on the little stage to read or go play with the trains in the back. At some point I stopped going to the toy store, but I've never stopped going to the bookstore. Holding a new book has never stopped being special to me, whether it's a recently published hardcover or a worn, thin paged paperback from a second hand shop. The places that provide this feeling are disappearing, and I dearly hope there's never a time when another book-hungry little girl can't wander into a book shop and find her first favorite book.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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