Shutting the Book on Bookstores

I have to share something devastating with you. You might want to sit down for this as you may be as shocked as I am.

The Barnes and Noble at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore has closed its doors for good. I know, right!? I can hardly imagine it. What used to be a multi-level oasis of pure happiness is now an empty building full of lost hopes and dreams.

photo credit: tripadvisor

photo credit: tripadvisor

photo credit: tripadvisor

No more new book smell. No more window shopping for little gifts and trinkets. No more reading in the aisles. No more meandering through row after row of the written word.

In experiencing this heartbreak, I wonder who else might be coping with the closure of their favorite store. Who else has lost a cherished brick and mortar place of business where they could physically purchase joy in the form of art, books, or other cultural goods?

We’re all aware that as our world shrinks down to the size of a laptop, we have become increasingly geared towards technology as online storefronts replace physical ones. Ecommerce is the big buzzword. Our lives, more and more, are lived through social media rather than tangible experiences.

So, are we, as a society, eschewing tangible books for mass-produced TikTok soundbites, YouTube beauty vlogs, and online shopping? Has Amazon finally killed the bookstore? And are we going to hold Jeff Bezos accountable?

Or can the death of the bookstore be attributed to the increasing availability and convenience of ebooks and audiobooks? Did technology like the Kindle usher in the slow demise of books as we know them?

Over the last twenty years or so, I have seen bookstore after bookstore close down. At first, it was the small, independent shops… between the big box stores and Amazon, they just didn’t stand a chance. Now, apparently, even the big chains are feeling the heat of our melting society. It’s disheartening, truly. I think of the 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail, where Meg Ryan plays a boutique bookstore owner. Her little shop struggles against the competition of the corporate Fox Books company and ultimately, her bookstore fails. Barnes and Noble is like the Fox Books of the real world. The irony that we’ve come full circle in this scenario is not lost on me.

Speaking of You’ve Got Mail.  Meg Ryan’s character falls in love with the owner of the company that ruined her beloved business. What’s that about anyway?? Even if he is Tom Hanks, I just don’t get it. It’s a good movie, but that resentment should feel more realistic. And it would read more like a tragedy than a romance.

Online shopping was already a huge business.  As we continue our lives through the pandemic, more and more people turn to Amazon and other ecommerce stores for their shopping. While some small bookstores remain afloat, will they be able to survive?

Bookstores, as you might have guessed, are one of my favorite places. They live and breathe creativity. The paper, the stories, the shelves, are all embedded into the very fabric of that magical place. It would be such a shame to know them only as a memory.


8 thoughts on “Shutting the Book on Bookstores

  1. So sad, so depressing. Closing bookstores are a horror. I’ll always remember my first visit to the Change of Hobbit store near UCLA, and then later when they moved to Santa Monica. It was a place where I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. Even now our local B&N is such a great place to visit. And the folks who work there! I went in a couple Christmases ago and described a book I had seen a year or two earlier, yellow color, something like this, about that and it had gotten good reviews… They had it and found it.

    Now, even with everything being online shopping, I’m trying to keep patronizing the independent book stores rather than Amazon. The problem isn’t even paying full price, it’s the wait in so many cases. There have been a dozen books this year that I’ve pre-ordered where Amazon would have had them on my doorstep the day they came out while I rarely get them less than two weeks later from the independent. I’m STILL waiting for one book I ordered in June for a July 6th release – every time I double check on Amazon I can have a copy by tomorrow if I order it by 5:00 today…

  2. Quite a few stores and restaurants closing where we live..probably due to the pandemic. You can only go so long without customers I guess. It’s creating quite a sad landscape.

  3. This is so depressing. I was always in Bookstores, it was my spa, so to speak. Bookstores were a peaceful oasis in times of stress, a fun place to be when a new book I had been waiting for came out. Krochs, Borders, all the independents and now our beloved Barnes. I hope mine is okay. I haven’t been there in awhile because of the virus. A virus which is taking so much more away from all of us.

  4. Yes, retail has definitely changed over the past years since online shopping became such a staple. Prior to the pandemic in 2020, we saw an uptick in the number of small bookstores coming back to our town in South Carolina. Let’s hope we get those back. I love a bookstore.

  5. This dang pandemic is not making ANY of this easier on brick and mortar stores. I remember when my beloved Borders bookstore closed all it’s branches. I took refuse in Barnes and Noble. I actually still buy all my physical books from them, via online, but it’s still them. I have a yearly membership and they have Starbucks. STARBUCKS AND BOOKS. Beautiful combination there.
    I’ve already heard about so many places not being able to survive this pandemic and I actually blame the white house. Can’t spend money if people don’t actually have it to spend. Especially on “luxuries” such as literature.

  6. Our local independent bookstore, Page and Palette, was doing well pre-Covid. I’m a librarian, so free is always first, but our local has been around for over 50 years. My books are sold there and I shop there. Amazon has not won…yet.

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