Barnes & Noble recently announced plans to close 100 of their stores nationwide due to the struggling market. Say what you will about how big chains like this are killing independent bookstores, but I think we're all on the same team in thinking that we don't like it when we see any bookstores having to close their doors, period. Do I love the independents? Sure. Do I have a local one? Kind of - well, 45 minutes away in really great traffic. I'll admit that when I do buy books, it's usually from my local B&N (also, I have a Nook).
It brings up the question that's been around since the advent of e-books: do we really even need bookstores anymore? My answer is of course YES. Bookstores bring jobs, staff people are a valuable resource that can't be simply replaced with an online algorithm, and not everyone is so wild about e-readers. Yes, I own one, but I think the options should exist side-by-side, rather than one replacing the other. As a reader, I like the feel of a book, flipping through the pages, reading random passages and getting a sense of this story. Online shopping is not the same.
Plus there are bookstore memories I hold dear, particularly at B&N. I remember when I was in my younger and orthodontia filled years that required getting quite a few teeth pulled so my braces would work the way they were supposed to. Not exactly fun, but the bright side was that we had to pass a B&N between my home and the dentist's office. So Mom and I had a deal to help make things a little brighter during my recovery: for every tooth pulled, I could get a book. They always seemed to pull two at a time during these visits, and as soon as we crossed the threshold into this beautiful clean space that smelled like coffee and pages begging to be read, I forgot all about the fact that my face was stuffed with gauze and that things sucked. Books (and my parents always encouraging my love of reading) made it better.
So basically, this news makes me sad. I sincerely hope that B&N doesn't end up going under the way Borders did only a few years ago. We must fight for our libraries and bookstores, because online and the NYT Bestsellers stock at whatever convenience stores we find ourselves are hardly the same.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!