Have they ever.
I remember the day when I could accompany my wife to a shopping mall with the relative confidence that I would not become bored silly within ten minutes of our arrival. Those days, sadly, are long gone. Long, long gone. While it is true that today's cookie-cutter retail malls all have the same basic array of stores, that is not a particularly new trend. What's new (and terrible) is that NONE of those stores are dedicated to selling books or recorded music. None of them...zero...just shoot me now.
Long gone are the days when there was usually a B. Dalton bookstore on one end of the mall and a Waldenbooks location at the other, with maybe a Sam Goody, a Camelot, and a Record Town to browse through on the way from one bookstore to the other.
Now it is a matter of having to suffer through one lookalike store after another, all of them selling the same basic lines of clothing, sports fan attire, overpriced electronics, or junk aimed at teens. My mind numbs at the very thought of having to negotiate my way through massive parking lots with few empty parking spaces located in the same zip code as the mall building just to wander through that kind of shopping wilderness. Not. Gonna. Happen.
I can't remember the last time I've gone to a shopping mall (and I'm not kidding or exaggerating), but according to Bookstores Have Left the Building (from The Stranger,) it has gotten even worse than I imagined it might be. Oh, well. If I am ever forced to endure a mall again for anything more than to pop into and out of one or two stores for specific purchases, I'll bring my own book and plant myself on a bench.
They still have benches, don't they?