I’m prematurely mourning the loss of all bookstores

I’m sad because there are so many bookstores closing. I realize I’m saying this as I write electronically on a blog, using the Internet and a free WordPress theme, but hear me out.

In early March, the Cookbook Store closed its doors for good and its building will be turned into condos (obviously). The Cookbook Store at 850 Yonge St had been around for 31-years.

The World’s Biggest Bookstore and Book City’s flagship Annex store in Toronto both closed their doors on Sunday, March 31.

Just announced this week, the Chapters Indigo Bookstore at John and Richmond Sts will be closing on May 30. This store has been open for 15-years.

Chapters at the corner of John and Richmond Sts in Toronto.
Chapters at the corner of John and Richmond Sts in Toronto.

I walk by the Chapters store around the corner from the CTV Toronto building every single day. I always make a note to myself about how cute the store is. It’s massive and is right beside a movie theatre (good thinkin’), but it’s also a place for people to gather, have coffee, relax and explore.

Chapters at the corner of John and Richmond Sts.
Chapters at the corner of John and Richmond Sts.

I peaked into the Chapters store on Wednesday, April 2 to check out the vibe. I wanted to hear what people were saying. Within moments, I saw a manager pull aside a sales associate and say, “If people ask – we’re business as usual. We’ve received a new shipment of books today and are planning to operate as we normally would.”

There is a certain culture about bookstores that I am petrified to lose. In the summer, I love walking to my local Indigo, grabbing a Starbucks Venti Tazo China Green Tips tea with two tea bags (holla) and picking out a new read (like an actual paper copy, with pages to turn). To boot, I even pay for this new read. I love the smell of bookstores. I love the way all the sales representatives are happy, alert and willing to help. I love the endless cookbooks, leaving me with recipes to discover. I love the huge Classics section, reminding me that I have a lot of books still to experience. I also love the sales – when a book is under $10.00, this girl knows what’s up. I don’t think I’ve ever left a bookstore feeling defeated or unhappy. There is something about the opportunities inside that leave me overjoyed.

I understand that less people are buying books. Book Net Canada reported that in the first quarter of 2013, the overall print market was down. All categories dipped as low as minus 20 per cent in value. Yes, we are undergoing an E-Reader Revolution (old news, I know), so it would make sense that with less books being purchased, the amount of bookstores will deplete, eventually extinguishing all of them (or keeping a few open to appeal to the book nerds like myself). Companies have to do what the market demands to stay relevant and if they can’t keep up, then three strikes, they’re out. To boot, a lot of people treat bookstores like a library – a place to hang out and read. Yes, bookstores provide that option, but with the hope that customers will buy the books they’re flipping through.

I am guilty of treating bookstores like a library sometimes, yes, but I also buy all my books. I am so pleased to say I own most of the books in my home (aside from the ones I never returned to the library and am currently too ashamed to show my face to the angry librarian waiting to collect my late fee). There’s something that comes along with being able to say: I own this story. I own these physical 200, 800 or 1,000 pages of pure awesomeness. There’s something about being able to hold a book in your hands, snuggle up with it and read at your own leisure – no need to worry about the last time you charged your book because actual books – the ones with a cover you can feel – don’t need to be charged.

I will desperately miss bookstores (assuming that there will no longer be any of the sort by the time I have children, should I be so lucky). I don’t want to lose them. Losing them could mean:

  • No more new book smell mixed with the scent of coffee brewing filling the air
  • A loss of bookstore culture (meaning, the  loss of everything I’ve written about in this post)
  • I have to get an e-reader (what if I don’ want one!?)
  • No more new books, to hold and to love with all your being (unless you purchase a book online, but see the second bullet above and understand why I think it’s simply not the same)
  • Lending books to friends and family will become slightly impossible. “Hey there, want to borrow my e-reader for a few weeks? Great book on there.” No! Get your own book
  • The loss of marking progress. No more need for an actual bookmark. I like bookmarks, though

As much as I will be crushed and hurt deeply as more bookstores close, there are a few good things that will probably could happen:

  • Books will become cheaper for everyone because they will need fewer bodies to publish and sell them, meaning reading opportunities should become more available to people from lower income families and textbooks could become cheaper for post-secondary, post-graduate and graduate students. Of course, there is a con to this – these people will need to buy e-readers, some being over $120.00 (which is a lower price than when the gadgets were first introduced). Will these e-readers be perceived as just another electronic that will ultimately become a dust collector? Will people from lower income families actually invest in them? Some say buying an e-reader will save money in the long run for an avid book lover. What about for the casual reader or the young child doing their school work?
  • As e-readers become the only most accessible way to dive into a great story or history lesson, people won’t have to order books if they’re out of stock and wait for them to come in. The books will always be there, ready to download. The Amazon book library, for example, has over 550,000 books to choose from

What’s something you will miss about bookstores?

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2 Comments

  1. As a recent graduate and budget conscious shopper, I find myself more and more often visitng Chapters and Indigo to see if the books I’m interested in are worth buying. Then, I turn to their websites to buy the books because their online pricing is drasticlly different than what I would pay in store. I think this is a huge flaw in their business plan that forced lower income individuals to turn to the internet for our books. This essentially created the platform of buying books online and was an open invitation for ebooks to revolutionize the industry. I think e-readers further reduce pricing and cut out the middle man, which is attractive to most shoppers. Chapters/Indigo stores couldn’t compete with their own website!

    One recommendation I have to those who enjoy browsing bookstores without a particular book in mind is to visit Value Village. They have extremely affordable books and many recent popular titles. With a little bit of searching, I was able to find almost every book for my English Minor at VV Boutique!

    Like

    1. Thanks for your comment, Greg! Buying books online is definitely cheaper and has certainly provoked how we consume books and how we read them today.

      Value Village does have a really great selection of books, and they are much cheaper than actual bookstore costs.

      Thanks for your input!

      Like

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