C. G. McGinn

Writer

Ramblings about Books and Writing

Live from the 'local' B&N

I'm being tongue-and-cheek when I say it's my local bookstore because I have to travel over 20 minutes to get there and it's in a busy shopping center. Yeah, I know; "First World Problems." But there is more to it than simple distance. The term 'local' anything conjures up the mental image of a homey, 'mom and pop' quaint gathering place where one can feel 'at home'. (I'm using a lot of old sayings to try and make a point. Bare with me, it's both my vacation and birthday week). But you get the idea. It's 'a place where everyone knows your name.' You don't get that feeling at bookstores these days.

Bookstores fall into 3 categories: Borders, B&N, and Boring. The Borders variety is also known as the out-of-business bookstore. The B&N flavor is the last dying remnant of the big corporate book chain, desperately trying to hold onto an old business model in a world moving to everything digital. The third category, are the bookstores that try to hold onto the old model without the funds of the big name stores, but also try to create an atmosphere similar to a library: Lots of seating, maybe a cafe, and a 'mom and pop' feel. These places are boring because they lack the inventory of the bigger stores... -well, except Borders, which currently has no inventory, and typically do not last very long because most customers would rather actually buy from the bigger stores and typically, like a library, would rather site around in these smaller establishments than spend money. You can typically find these places in old department stores and they will often resemble a warehouse rather than a place you would go to pick out books and perhaps even read them. One thing they have is space, places to sit, which is lacking in the big chains.

Currently I'm crammed in a corner, one of the only available seats in the entire store, bitching about said stores. Back before digital media, stores like B&N and Borders thrived and were able to strike a nice balance between a comfortable customer experience, and selling books. As physical books sales dropped, so too did the customer experience. It was no wonder most people would rather buy their books online than enter a bookstore.

I don't know. I may be talking well out of my ass on this, and 'squatters' as we'd call them when I worked for a bookstore, might have been the downfall of the big bookstores, for the sole reason that squatters would not actually buy anything, but rather, would take up space, and often do all of their reading in your comfy bookstore chairs. Who needs to buy a book when you can just read it in the store.

The argument in and of itself is complex and there perhaps isn't a clean and simple answer. Perhaps the best way to serve the squatters and writers would be to build quality cafes in all public library's. Make them a private entity within the public space. That way, the lousy writers and cheap SOB's who aren't going to spend a dime on a book, at least, not in a physical bookstore can have their place to take up space and be some poor librarian's burden instead of the poor bookseller in the big bookstores.

The question can then be asked, what is the fate of the B&N's and Boring bookstores of the world? Perhaps they should all go the way of Borders. After all, everything is going digital anyway. 

A very tongue-and-cheek post.