Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why bookstores are an endangered species

The Dallas Theater Center recently staged a production of Giant. You might recall the movie from the 50’s starring Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean. It was based on a novel by Edna Ferber, one of the most successful American authors of the 20th century. I had mixed feelings about the DTC’s musical, not the least of which being I hate musicals. Hate musicals, love opera. Don’t ask me why-that’s just how it is. It seems I’m one of the few people alive that has never actually seen the movie, neither have I read the book. Since everyone I know was a bit incredulous when I told them about it--the general consensus being that Giant is not the stuff of which musicals are made--I began to wonder how it the musical compares to the book.

Giant apparently doesn’t exist as an ebook, but I found myself in the northern ‘burbs the next day and I decided to pop in to the nearby Barnes & Noble. I figured that there was a better than average chance they’d have it, since the Theater Center’s production has been getting rave reviews. Nope. So I trekked back across the frozen tundra to Civilization, stopping at another Barnes & Noble on the way. Nope. I had to go to four bookstores before I finally found it.

One hopes that the reason a major novel by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author was so hard to find is that there was such a flurry of interest that it caught bookstore managers all over town by surprise. Somehow I doubt it. It is, however, beside the point. The fact is, if there’s a book you want to read and it’s not the latest “Twilight” novel, you’ll probably have to order it online. This suits me just fine, as the brick-and-mortar stores don’t carry my book anyway. (They’ll order it for you, though, if you ask.)

There used to be a Borders in my neighborhood before they went under. It was within walking distance, but the one and only time I went there they didn’t have the book I wanted. They offered to order it for me, but if I’m going to do this, why not just order it from Amazon? It’s not their fault--they have room for a finite number of books. I’m actually one of the small percentage of the population that still shops at bookstores. Or I would, if there were any close to me and they had the books I want to read. No matter how much I love books, it’s just so much easier and faster to download an ebook, and that’s what I usually do.

Any thoughts on the future of brick-and-mortar bookstores? Real books vs. ebooks? I’d love to hear your opinions.


  1. I think one possible reason for not being able to find 'Giant' is that the large chain bookstores stock what the publishers send them. Personnaly, I love bookstores. Bookstores, with tangible books on the shelves, enable you to browse in ways that online retailers simply cannot. I wish no ill on the major chains, but I hope that if the chains continue to struggle, the solution will be that independent bookstores make a come back, rather than that all bookstores are lost. One of the greatest things about independent bookstores is that they stock a curated collection of books. A good independent bookstore can turn their customers on to books and authors that they may otherwise have never known about.

  2. Anonymous, you have a valid point regarding the publishers. Yet another reason why they are deservedly losing their control over what's available for us to read. And I agree, you can't beat a good indie bookstore. I just wish they weren't getting so hard to find.

  3. I've ran into this as well. Gone into a large chain only to have to order from the web. I wonder why they carry so many subjects are are dated and not in demand? Larry S.

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