Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bookstores in the News

Borders explores sale

Henry and I have been going to Science Fiction Conventions for years. Last year I went to the Colorado Christian Writer's Conference. We have been hearing a lot about how the book markets have changed over the last few years. What we hear from both places - the science fiction world and the Christian books world -markets are changing. Small bookstores are disappearing. Bookstores in malls are disappearing (which reduces the possibility of impulse book buying). Wal-Mart sells more books than almost anyone. The disadvantage of Wal-Mart as the major bookseller is that books have a very limited shelf life at Wal-Mart.

Stores like Barnes and Nobles and Borders create an "experience" when you go to buy a book. You can go have your latte. There are comfortable chairs to browse through books. They are designed for you to spend time, hoping you will choose more books in the process. But these mega bookstores have had a negative impact on small family owned bookstores. While I really like shopping at the Family Christian bookstores for Christian books, music, and art, the growth of that chain of stores has negatively impacted the small, locally owned Christian bookstores. In the Austin area most of the smaller Christian bookstores are gone. A well beloved children's bookstore, Toadhall, has been gone a long time.

But when I saw the headlines about Borders this morning, I had to sigh. If even the large mega bookstores are having financial problems, what does that say about our country's reading habits? Are we truly reading less? Are the nation's economic problems discouraging people from making that extra trip into a bookstore?

While there are many good things I can say about Wal-Mart, I would hate to see the "bottom line" being the only criteria for which books are available for purchase. Books need a longer shelf life, not a shorter one.

I grew up as an avid reader. I still enjoy reading. Yes, I do my news reading online rather than paper newspapers. But I still enjoy picking up a good book and I prefer the paper variety over electronic books when I am reading for pleasure.

I hope that Borders will be able to turn their economic situation around. I would hate to lose them as a place to shop for books. More important, I hope Americans continue to read books.

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