Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Beginning of the End?

I’m sure most of you have heard that Borders is going out of business. The news broke Monday afternoon, and it got me thinking about the future of books. My last post highlighted five great independent bookstores, and a number of people added their favorites in the comments (thank you very much by the way). I know there are a lot of great bookstores still out there, but I can’t help wondering if the fall of Borders is the beginning of the end for brick and mortar bookstores.

For the record, I’ve bought a lot of books at Borders over the years. My daughters love the place. Going to Borders was one of those things we did together, and those are memories I’ll always cherish. I know I just wrote about my love of independent bookstores and all, but I have to admit, I’m going to miss Borders.

Borders isn’t the first casualty of the digital revolution, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Barnes and Noble may stick around for a while, but eventually it too will be steamrolled by the ebook. My guess is that some of the independents will survive for people who still want to read books the old-fashioned way.

As much as I love a great bookstore, I wonder if I’ll be one of those people. The thing is, I think I might be falling in love with ebooks. I got this fancy new smart phone this summer, and it came with an Amazon Kindle app. I got an Amazon gift card for my birthday, and I bought a couple books, just to check out what all the fuss is about. I recently finished reading the first one, and I have to say, it was an enjoyable reading experience.

So while it’s sad to think that Borders is just the beginning of the end for brick and mortar bookstores, I can’t deny the appeal of ebooks. I will continue to buy physical books, supporting independent bookstores as long as they’re around. I will also continue to buy more digital books, embracing the future despite longing for the past.

Have you embraced ebooks, or are you deadest against them? Do you think bookstores can stay viable in a digital world?

15 comments:

  1. I've always loved "real" bookstores, but I also have a nook and love the convenience of ebooks. However, I think people are jumping to the conclusion that ebooks are the reason brick and mortar bookstores are shutting down, and I totally disagree with that. I just think it's the ease of the Internet - I order "real" books from Barnes and Noble and Amazon all the time! There aren't any bookstores close to me (closest is about 20 minutes away) and it's easier to order a bunch online and just have them waiting on my front porch a few days later. So I don't necessarily think that the end of physical bookstores means the end of physical books.

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  2. I will not buy an eReader until there is not one printed copy of a book left.

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  3. I tried a Kindle and returned it. I really wanted to love it, but at the time I couldn't get the JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman titles I was interested in... really? No HP or American Gods? And then I noticed that AGs was going to be released as a "special edition" and that I would have to pay the hardback price for the digital version. I know I'm getting old and curmudgeony but it just didn't fit.

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  4. Munk: I bought American Gods last night on my iPad so it's obviously available.

    Anyway...I think this may be a good thing, Riley. Old independent bookstores will come back. That means that maybe in my old age, I could possibly entertain owning my own bookstore right next to the record store in my town that's thriving. Those big chains are the death of small businesses.

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  5. I love books! I love the smell, the slight crinkle when turning the paper page, the ease of paging back when I've forgotten something. I would hate to see bookstores disappear! With that said, I have a Sony Reader. I use it for traveling (especially now that the airlines are weighing our luggage) or when I'm kind of interested in a book but don't want to pay full price.

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  6. I agree with Allison. I don't think it is just the ereaders that are causing the problems with book stores. While I do order books for my kindle and download books to my Ipad, the fact I can buy hardback books at Sam's Club or Costco for half the price of the bookstores, it comes down to the big box competition. I still try to get to the mom and pop bookstores because they have a charm that money can't buy.

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  7. I used to buy loads of books at B&N and Borders, but when I lost my job I had to give up that luxury. I get my books now from our public library. 11,000 people out of a job. That just bites.

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  8. I think the loss of bookstores is very sad because they are great places to hang out and it's easier to see what's out there on the shelf than find it online.

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  9. I'm using my phone here, so I'll keep this short. Great comments everyone. This is the kind of discussion that makes blogging so much fun.

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  10. I am simultaneously sad and excited about the future of publishing. I guess the important thing is that a variety of voices are heard.

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  11. Squilla's AuntJuly 19, 2011 at 1:35 PM

    I'm in the Lady Gwen camp. I LOVE *real* books, love having a library area in my house, love the tactile experience. That said, I'll probably end up with an e-reader of some sort for traveling, which I do a lot of. Not opposed to e-readers - let's keep them in the mix - but definitely opposed to the end of all hardcopy books as we know them.

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  12. E-readers almost feel like picking up fast food. Cheap and impulsive buys. The convenience of the e-reader was a big selling point for me.

    But the Kindle I bought a year and a half ago isn't a fixture for me. I go back to real books all the time. I become nostalgic for page numbers (the Kindle's lack of page numbers shocked me); using a pen to take notes; flipping through pages; etc.

    Your point about small bookstores is spot on and really noticeable where I live. Many have developed communities (though book clubs and lecture series) that I don't remember before B&N started Stackbucks-ing all over the city.

    At the end of the day, these changes have happened so quickly they're still a bit hard for me to process.

    Posts like this are a great way to see what others are thinking. Thanks for it and to everyone else for the interesting comments. :)

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  13. I got one of those fancy smart(ha!)phones, too, and I can't imagine reading a book on it. The screen isn't large enough for me, but my daughter loves her Kindle.

    What about libraries! What will come of them. Perhaps we'll find more people inhabiting the old libraries. Wouldn't that make our librarians happy!

    And support your local bookstore. ;)

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  14. Haven't been into ebooks yet. Too many hours staring at a screen already. I need the feel and look of a real book

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  15. not into ebooks as of yet, spend all my amazon gift money on jazz ;')

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