By now, you've no doubt heard the news: The Booksellers of Laurelwood, a longstanding Memphis institution, will be shutting its doors next month. Like many Memphians, I was devastated by the announcement. But I was also overcome with another emotion, one that caught me by surprise: Anger.
I hope this won't sound like a lecture. That isn't my intent. But so many of the comments I've read over the past few days have so completely missed the mark. For example, comments along these lines:
1.) I hate that it's closing. It was such a great place to study.
2.) These bookstore libraries are all going under. Sad.
3.) They should move their location. They could probably succeed if they reopened in________part of town.
4.) At least we still have Burke's and Barnes and Noble.
5.) There's no way they were losing that much money! Every time I went in it was overflowing with people!
6.) Nordstroms and Ulta are really in trouble now. Booksellers was the anchor store of that shopping center. With them gone, Nordstroms and Ulta shouldn't even bother opening.
But a bookstore doesn't survive by putting butts in seats. This isn't a concert or a movie theater -- nobody paid a price for admission. In order for a bookstore to remain viable, to remain open, they have to move products. Now, I', not looking to shame anybody. Half the fun of going to a bookstore is getting lost in the aisles, browsing through random books and discovering something new. I won't even say too much about the people who used Booksellers compiling a mental list of the books they wanted to buy...on Amazon. (Grrrr.)
My beef is with the people who use a bookstore as their personal reading room. The ones who hang out for three hours catching up on all the latest magazines and maybe taking in the first part of a novel or two. We've all seen it happen. And if this was a one off, it might be less annoying. Look, I understand. Times are tough. You don't always have the money to spend on books. And I would never begrudge anyone an activity that they really enjoy. But when people come in and NEVER buy anything, take up the prime areas of the store, and leave a giant stack of crumpled magazines and books behind, it's a bit off-putting.
So what's the answer? Did eBooks kill the bookstores? It looked that way for a while, but indie bookstores are on the rise. (Or are they?) Whatever the reason, it's hard to feel optimistic when CNN posts articles which open like this:
"The final chapter for Barnes & Noble's corporate history has yet to be written. But the bookseller's recent performance is scarier than a Stephen King novel."
Yikes. But before you sound the death knell on bookstores, don't forget that Amazon has gotten into the the bookstore game. Which is either wonderful or terrible, depending upon who you ask.
So what does this mean for writers? Where do our careers go from here? I'll delve into this topic more on Friday, so stay tuned.