I recently read an interesting column by The Dallas Morning News‘s Jacquielynn Floyd about what may be the slow death of the brick and mortar bookstore. Here are my own thoughts.
If you had told me back in the ‘90s that Borders Books would be closing many of its North Texas stores due to bankruptcy, I’d have cried like a baby. I frequented a Dallas Borders location – one that is currently slated for the chopping block – with real devotion then. I saw Gloria Steinem and Norman Mailer give readings there, among others. As a reporter working on a story, I interviewed Anne Rice in a black lace wedding gown while she signed books for a couple thousand fang-wearing fans. (Rice was in the black wedding gown, not me). But more than that, I dropped a boatload of cash there because the book and music selections were seemingly stocked with me in mind.
Then when the ‘00s came, I began a torrid affair with Amazon. Not only were book and CD prices significantly cheaper, the selection was insanely wide and deep. Out of print items I’d been seeking for years were available from secondary sellers. I found interests that I never knew I had thanks to Amazon. That oft-maligned online retailer helped make me a smarter person. My fling quickly became a longterm relationship, and I more or less dumped Borders.
When I visited my once beloved Borders last year, it was sad. Shelf space had shrunk dramatically. The music selection was as good or better at your local Best Buy. The floor space seemed dominated by candy, stationery, pens, cards, and other non-book novelties. Borders had gotten dumber (in a bid to survive), I’d grown choosier, and Amazon had won (until the next online behemoth renders them obsolete). The lesson? Capitalism is merciless but not without its advantages.