Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Future of Bookstores

Yesterday's L.A. Times had a lengthy story by David Streitfeld titled "Bookshops' Latest Sad Plot Twist." The focus was on the increasingly tough world bricks-and-mortar bookstores face today.

According to Streitfeld, "The casualties are nationwide . . . Rising rents and competition from the chains have imperiled independents for years, but San Francisco used to think it was immune. Cody's and other Bay Area stores helped spark the Beat movement, encouraged the counterculture, fueled the initial protests against the Vietnam War. In a region that sees itself as smart and civilized, bookshops were things to be cherished. No longer, apparently."

The author contends that the Internet has brought about a shift in buying habits among the public. "Ordering from . . . has become the generic term for book buying."

We're talked about this here before. Customers have a large array of options today: they can buy a book from a new or used bookstore or from a big box store or even, on impulse, from a supermarket or drug store. They can go online and buy one new or used from, or Barnes & Noble.

So, what's the answer? Praveen Madan recently purchased a bookstore in the hippie neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. He says what needs to happen is that someone must create the store for the 21st century. "He's full of plans for improving the Booksmith's website, tying the store more firmly to the Haight-Ashbury community, doing more events--making it both ineascapable and irresistible for those who live in the neighborhood."

If someone doesn't find the answer, the bookstore will go the way of the milkbox outside your front door or the old theaters playing even older films or those foot-long cell phones.


tongfengdemao said...

Powell's Books in Portalnd, OR may be working on this problem too. They seem to still be doing well. I know they have a website, too. I order through them as much as anywhere else. When I get up to Portland, I love to go in.


Maya Reynolds said...

Hi, Faith: Powell's was the first online site from which I ever ordered books. Nowadays, I order from, B&N and Amazons as well as Powell's.

It still amazes me how much our buying habits have changed.