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.
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.