Monday, January 10, 2011

What Do Bookstores and 8-Track Tapes Have In Common?

Are bookstores going the way of record players, typewriters, shoulder pads (thank god), and 8-track tapes?  In the words of Romney Wordworth on that freakishly awesome Twilight Zone episode: Are bookstores becoming obsolete?

Unless some of them change their business models, I think so. 

Don't get me wrong: I love bookstores.  I love visiting them, pulling books from shelves, meeting friends for coffee, discussing books.  I'm a voracious reader, reading and buying (or borrowing from the library) at least 1-2 books a week. 

But since I've gotten my e-reader (yeah, I got the nook), I'm reading, borrowing, and buying even more.  The last hardcover I purchased was Elizabeth Bass's MISS YOU MOST OF ALL (Side note: Get it. NOW. It's wonderful.)  But today unless a book comes out in a digital format, I'm not likely to buy it.  And I'm not one of those purists who says, "I can only read a book. I have to feel it in my hands, smell the pages."  Etc, etc.  Sorry, but my e-reader gives me the same pleasure and tactile experience as a book.  Call me a book heathen. 

Which brings me back to bookstores.  I still love to visit them (small ones, big ones, doesn't matter).  Unless they have cats or dogs roaming around.  I'm terribly allergic to both. 

But it would be so cool to bring my e-reader into a bookstore, download from their stacks, sip a latte and nosh on a Snickerdoodle.  Yes, I know you could do that now but I'm wondering if bookstores couldn't play that up a little more.  Make it more enticing for us e-reader types to visit, maybe offer a free download.  I know that Barnes and Nobles does that on Fridays but I'd like to see some of the smaller bookstores get in the act. 

I do think there's room (and a need) for bookstores.  I don't want them to go away.  But unless they charge happily into the 21st Century, particularly the smaller ones, and not only embrace but creatively promote available technology, I'm afraid they'll become obsolete.

P.S.  I finished THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak this weekend.  Two words: Pure genius! I posted my review to Goodreads.


Tina said...

I am both a book purist (the feel! the smell!) and a book heathen (oooh look, hyperlink! And no need to find storage space!). But I think if bookstores do what you suggest -- offer an atmosphere encouraging of both print and e-books -- then they need not go the way of the dinosaur. Or disco.

Colette Martin said...

You got an e-reader -- that's awesome! Since my own Kindle purchase last fall I find I read far more books digitally -- but I draw the line when the paperback is cheaper than the e-version. I just can't justify paying more for e-books.

And you did inspire me to download The Book Thief!

Angelina Rain said...

I agree with you completely, Liz. The last time I was at Borders (which was a while ago) they had a sign on the door saying their e-book store was coming soon or something like that. I love going to book stores to browse and drink over priced coffee, so I hope they never go away, but I think they should incorporate e-books in there somewhere too.

Danette said...

I hope not! I am a book purist and I want books to stick around. Not to mention that since we are a throw away society that if books become obsolete, there are many books that will disappear just like the movies that you can't find anymore. Even the Library of Congress will throw things out if they feel they can get away with it. Plus there is the added problem of what reading online and computers is doing to our attention span...

Linda Leszczuk said...

I'm an 'almost' book purist. I received a Nook as a gift but the only books I've purchased in e-form were not available in print. I still love roaming bookstores, picking up books and flipping through them, looking for one that catches my interest. Downloading samples just isn't the same.

But I fear I may be going the way of the dinosaur.

Elena Solodow said...

I like my "actual" books, but I agree that bookstores are going to have to be creative to continue to draw people in. Perhaps some kind of digital signature on the hard copy books, wherein you can hold up your e-reader and purchase it right in the store.

Marianne Arkins said...

You can take your Nook into any Barnes and Noble any time and read a book for an hour for free... I'm good with that. And, yeah, I always buy a cup of coffee and a snack while I do.

I find that my Nook is actually easier on my eyes than paper (a BIG plus since I'm on the computer all day long) and my DH has issues with the number of books I already own (two large bookcases utterly stuffed with books), so the storage capability is a plus.

The simple fact is that I think print books are going away -- when's the last time you opened a paper dictionary instead of just going to

Sad? Maybe a little. Few things can rival "new book smell". But I have to admit to being more prone to buying e than print any more and I really don't mind at all... easier on my pocket and, hey, save a tree :-)

Donna Cummings said...

I would like to see bookstores evolve to include all options--print and e-book.

Bookstores didn't always have coffee places, or even spots to sit and spend the day, for example, but I think they were instituted to keep people inside the store for a longer time.

So now they need to evolve again, to keep up with readers' new needs.

Joanna St. James said...

okay dont laugh at me but I saw an ereader for the first time on xmas eve, I was so tempted to walk up to the stranger and pummel her with questions.
I know when I get an ereader I will go out of control and boost the economy with my buying power

Liz Fichera said...

Boy, howdy! Great comments today!

Tina, I couldn't agree more. I think there's room for both.

Colette, I look forward to hearing how much you will love your Kindle! And definitely check out The Book Thief. It was an amazing read.

Angelina, so true. The coffee isn't great and it is so way overpriced. But there's something about sipping and noshing as you're reading a book in a bookstore.

Danette, seriously?! They throw out books? I hope there is some serious karma for the people doing that.

Elena, in my mind, I see something very Star Trekky. Like you can transport to the book section you want to be in--well, maybe after I'm dead. But I would seriously love to see them us WiFi, scanning, anything to get people to visit/buy inside their stores. But they have to stop treating e-readers like the plague.

Marianne, I agree on it being a "green" alternative. I also like the way it feels lin my hands and fits so nicely inside my purse.

Donna, I know. A bookstore without some type of coffee shop is just asking for trouble. Where else will they make $4 for a crappy cup of coffee? The profit margins alone are probably the best in the whole bookstore.

Joanna - YOU LIVE! At least you haven't gotten lost inside an e-reader. Great to see you!

Nas said...

Hi Liz,

Lucky you! Getting an eReader! It would be so easy to carry ebooks around and whip it out to read anywhere! And keep so many books on your fingertips to choose from.

Oh How I wish I could get one!

Liz Fichera said...

Hi Nas, I just learned that Barnes and Noble is giving away a nook every day, just to someone who "likes" their Facebook page. You might want to check it out. You'd love it!

Elana Johnson said...

Awesome post. I do think everyone has to rethink how things have been done in the face of eReaders.

CA Heaven said...

Bookstores are the only stores I enjoy visiting, and small local music stores >:)