Sunday, November 02, 2014

When the Last Bookstore Closes...What Then?

How can something like this happen?  With the impending closing of the Barnes & Noble Bay Plaza bookstore, the Bronx, a New York borough of almost 1.5 million people is about to become "bookless."  Yes, you read that correctly - because, believe it or not, the borough's last independent book store, one called "Books in the Hood" closed three years ago.

According to the New York Daily News: (whole article)
"Prestige (Prestige Properties, developer of the mall) allegedly jacked up the bookselling behemoth’s rent during lease negotiations, according to David Deason, Barnes & Noble’s vice president of development.
“Our lease is expiring and we worked diligently to extend the lease,” said David Deason, the vice president of development at Barnes & Noble. “The property owner informed us that they had other users who were willing to pay in excess of what Barnes & Noble was paying for the leased space.”

There is still a glimmer of hope for the Bronx because B&N management claims to be looking for new rental space somewhere in the area, and promises to reopen as soon as possible.  I'm left wondering, however, what this really means.  Is this a glimpse into the future for all of us living in mid-to-large cities across the country?  Are e-books, smart phones, instant digital downloads, and multi-purpose tablets on the verge of changing the publishing industry forever?  

Will those of us (and I truly wish there were more of us) who prefer reading the physical books we find by browsing the shelves of brick and mortar bookstores forever lose what we consider to be one of life's greatest pleasures?  

Twenty years ago I never suspected that old fashioned record stores were on the verge of disappearing - nor how badly I would miss them when they did. It all seemed to happen so suddenly, but in retrospect, we should have seen it coming.  I fondly remember the countless Saturday mornings I spent in record stores flipping through the stacks and listening to new music.  I discovered dozens and dozens  of new artists that way, performers I would have otherwise probably never heard of.  And I still use bookstores that way: to identify new writers and books and to keep up with what's newly published and what's in, or soon to be in, the book pipeline.  

What is going to happen when the last bookstore shuts its doors?  Electronic browsing of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apple Books just doesn't work the same way.  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry fancies himself a writer and, by the time I wade through all the garbage they have self-published, I am in no mood (nor do I have the time) to find the needles, the good stuff, in that giant haystack of crap.

Bookless in the Bronx?  God help us all...

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