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livelaughlove21's avatar

Are bookstores the next to go?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (14588 points ) February 4th, 2014

Inspired by the recent closing of our biggest Barnes & Noble.

Hey, remember Blockbuster and Hollywood Video? Ah, the days before Netflix and Hulu ruled the world. What the hell is RedBox still doing around? Well, are places like Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million the next to go? Now that people have their Kindles and Nooks, are these places even necessary? If I have the option of spending $8 on a Kindle version of a book from the comfort of my own home or getting in my car and driving for twenty minutes just to spend $20 on a book that will eventually collect dust on my table or bookshelf, it doesn’t seem like a difficult choice to make.

So what say you? Are bookstores on their way out? If not, why do you feel that way?

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27 Answers

geeky_mama's avatar

Case in point: Borders Bookstores.

I miss them very much.

cookieman's avatar

Yes, but not as quick as you would think. Digital publications (eBooks, tablet magazines, digital comics) only accounts for about 18% of sales currently. And it’s growing much slower than when digital music supplanted physical media.

Frankly, Amazon is a more immediate threat than digital media.

That being said, they are disappearing now. Borders is gone, Walden Books is gone, Barnes & Noble is shrinking. Mom n’ pop, second hand, and antiquity book stores continue to serve niche markets though.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yes, and it’s sad. I loved Borders, too, but now I pretty much just get hand-me-downs. I think we better start keeping them and building our own libraries (Pinterest rocks with hom libraries.)

Bluefreedom's avatar

I’ve been a very avid reader all my life and still am to this day. I have to admit that I am a die-hard Kindle fan and have been since Amazon released them. I read 2 to 3 books a week, on average, on my Kindle and I’ve only read one actual paperback book in the last 4 years.

I think with the advent of Kindles, Nooks, iPads, Smartphones, Laptops, and all other devices with reading applications, it is inevitable that bookstores and going to suffer badly in today’s more technologically inclined environment.

syz's avatar

Here’s my theory: when the giant bookstore chains popped up on every corner, independently owned bookstores dropped like flies – but the best ones are still around. I think e-books will indeed kill off most superstores, but that will be an opportunity for small, niche bookstores to shine. I think they’ll be around forever.

Personally, I buy junk on my e-reader, but I still go to the store for the exceptional books. I like holding them, I like having them, and I’ll probably never stop (in spite of being entirely out of shelf space).

keobooks's avatar

I used to work at Borders. They were starting to have financial problems since the mid 90s. They made some very poor financial decisions and had been struggling to stay above water for longer than they will admit. They would have gone under regardless—maybe a little bit slower without the Kindle et al, but they were headed down.

CWOTUS's avatar

Take heart. Though bookstores are on the way out – sadly – so are cable companies. And credit cards.

talljasperman's avatar

Chapters will go down fighting.

Darth_Algar's avatar

E-readers aren’t what’s killing physical bookstores, but rather Amazon itself is. This would be the case with or without e-readers (and indeed, brick-and-mortar booksellers were on the decline even before e-readers hit the market). Honestly I can’t feel mourn for companies like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Their business model consisted on dominating the market and squeezing out smaller competition. Well Amazon came along and the big retailers got beat at their own game. Small independent “mom ‘n pop” bookstores will still be around to serve more niche markets and local tastes more than B&N and the like ever would have considered. Plus digital books can’t be resold and there’ll always be a market for used books.

That said, I fucking love my Kindle. Cherish it even. Now I pretty much don’t read physical books unless I simply can’t get it for my Kindle.

Seek's avatar

I’ve never bought an eBook with money.

It’s easy enough to find an eBook for free on the ‘net. If I’m willing to spend money on something, I want a physical copy.

I do the same thing with video games, by the way. I’m not into the idea of downloading paid-for computer games. If I’m spending money on it, I will have a physical copy in my hand, that cannot be taken away from me.

I have a couple hundred documents in my Kindle account. If they wanted to, Amazon could cancel my account with or without notice, and then if my device failed all of those documents would vanish into the ether. Whereas my dog-eared copy of The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings has been with me for 25 years and isn’t going anywhere.

AshLeigh's avatar

I hope not. I like books. I like turning pages and not having to charge them at night.

rojo's avatar

No time to read all the others yet, but , I certainly hope not!

hug_of_war's avatar

While it is a little sad, honestly I only get new physical books as gifts. Otherwise I buy the ebook. I don’t have to lug heavy books while waiting (and when you can’t drive waiting is just a part of life). I can switch books quickly without needing to carry multiple books. It’s hard to spend money on books.

filmfann's avatar

Borders, WaldenBooks, even Barnes and Nobel closed their Pleasant Hill store in the last few weeks, and that did huge business.
I am in the middle of moving, which meant moving the library I have accumulated. I look at all these books I will never read again, yet I cannot part with, and realize I could put them all on my Kindle.
I love just roaming in a bookstore. I have found many of my treasures just wandering the aisles.

ibstubro's avatar

For every Blockbuster that died here in the Midwest, a Family Video ate their lunch. Hielig-Meyer [furniture] went out almost as fast as Ashley took their place.

I still read only paper books, and probably always will (mirrors have started to freak my eyes for some reason, and I don’t mean my image.) I like the look feel and heft of a good book. Especially on a re-read!

Yes, bookstores may be the next to go.

rojo's avatar

I hope @syz is correct. I much prefer the small M&P bookstores (and ½ books) than the big chains and I would let them go to keep the smaller ones.

cookieman's avatar

@cookieman prediction
Unlike CDs and Cassettes (music) and DVDs and BlueRays (video), physical paper books will continue on in parallel to digital media.

The tactil quality of books is attractive even to younger generations. Paper quality, cover treatments, binding types. These add something very tangible to the reading experience that digital cannot replicate. You can’t emboss or die-cut an iPad (well, you could, but you’d ruin it.)

So while daily reading consumption (paperbacks, single issue comics) may eventually go all digital, hard bound books, coffee table books, graphic novels, etc. will always be in demand, albeit in smaller numbers. Regardless, it will be a much more robust niche than say vinyl albums (which appeal to a very small group of audiophiles).

ibstubro's avatar

@cookieman I keep hearing that vinyl is making a comeback, as in new issues. I’ve not explored the veracity of that however.

Seek's avatar

@ibstubro It definitely is in niche markets. Metal, mostly, and particularly underground artists who don’t want their stuff available on iTunes.

Darth_Algar's avatar

And even “underground” artists who’s stuff is available on iTunes.

BeenThereSaidThat's avatar

You might be correct about that. I have been a big reader since I’ve been a teenager and I have hundreds of books. I find now that since I got my Kindle three years ago I never seem to buy books anymore. I still like the feel of a hand held actual book but now I am so use to my Kindle. It is so easy to just download a book instead of going out to a bookstore or ordering a book from Amazon and waiting for delivery.

sinscriven's avatar

@livelaughlove21 : Yes, alternate payment systems are already here actually.

There’s an ice cream shop around here that i’ve only been in like once or twice but I can actually walk in and they can even recognize me and greet me by name. I place my order, they give me my order and I walk out. No fumbling around my wallet for money or a card, no paper receipts, nothing to slow down the process between asking and getting what I need. Before I even walk out of the store i’ll get a text or an email with the receipt with the charge to my checking account.

That’s kind of the basic super-seamless version of it. It doesn’t have to be that automatic if you want more control. But it goes deeper than that: Things like loyalty cards would be gone, because you’ll be identified by your phone in your pocket by their sale system. Go there enough and they’ll know you have a regular order. If they REALLY want to be proactive, they can have it being made once the system senses your phone’s presence in the store or nearby.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@sinscriven I’ve never even heard of such a thing. I think it’ll be quite awhile before that takes over, if it ever does. I don’t find credit cards all that inconvenient and it seems like this alternate payment system could potentially have a lot of holes in it. I’m not saying it won’t wipe out cards eventually, but I doubt we’ll see it happen anytime soon.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Do we really want a business to automatically start an order for us just because our phone is within range of their sensors?

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Darth_Algar That’s what I was thinking. And even if we did, not everyone has a smartphone on them all day, every day. What if they forgot it? What if they don’t even own one? No ice cream for them!

You’d think credit cards would wipe out the need for paper currency before anything high tech wipes out the need for cards. Still hasn’t really happened.

ibstubro's avatar

That’s a cool story, @sinscriven.

Of course, the concept will never fly because humans tend to be contrarians. There is a large faction that would walk by the shop every time they were out, never order the same thing twice, and leave their phone in the car just to monkey-wrench the system. No sooner than the sensor system took off and there would be an app to block it. Invasion of privacy. Big Brother. What-have-you.

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