Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Why Bother Going To A Bookstore?

I go to a bookstore everyday- but, then, I'm strange like that. I work at a bookstore.

When I leave work, I go to different bookstores for fun- but, then, I'm strange like that. I love books.

I recently read a report that stated 70% of adults in the United States haven't been in a bookstore in the last five years. Are books boring? Are bookstores boring?

Books, like any commodity, have increased in price over the years. Does the price keep us from buying books?

If you do buy books, you are able to sit in your underwear at home, on the computer and buy books from the Internet. Is that more appealing than getting dressed and going to a bookstore? Is this convenience or laziness?

Many bookstores have built cafes and now serve food and coffee. Are books interesting only if they come with food and drink? Are bookstores now just coffee houses with a few books to sell?

Would more people come to bookstores if there were video games to play, movies to watch, roller coasters to ride? If these things were available at the bookstore, would the bookstore be a bookstore anymore?

I've been thinking about these questions quite a lot lately. I can't imagine my life without bookstores. To me, they are exciting places where I can buy books about nearly any subject imaginable. The books themselves are entertainment.

I realize there are many things vying for our time and attention these days- I too feel the pressures of the modern world. But, I make time to go to bookstores. I make time to read. I do it for work. I do it to learn. I do it for pleasure. But, then, I'm strange like that.

What then, would make bookstores exciting places? What would make you make time to visit a bookstore? An author signing their new book? A book club discussion group? A movie night?

What would make a bookstore THE place to be for you? Share your comments with us. Inquiring minds would like to know what YOU think about bookstores and what would make them more interesting, vibrant and fun places to be.

While you think about this, I'll be at the bookstore. But, then again, I'm strange like that.


jgarfink said...

I love books. I'm lucky to live in a city with both the regular chain bookstores and some used bookstores so I have my options. I have to say, though, I do love Borders, even if they have a coffeeshop inside.

h said...

yeah um there's this place, i don't know if you have heard of's called a library and I think you can read books there for free. Crazy huh?

The Bookmark at the University Campus Store said...

Libraries are my next favorite place, right behind bookstores, but here is the ironic thing. If it weren't for bookstores, very few libraries would exist- and certainly not public libraries where you can check things out for free. Customers of bookstores subsidize patrons of libraries. How? If publishers could not sell as many books as they do through bookstores (independents, chains, and internet) they would not stay in business solely to publish for libraries. Libraries do not purchase enough books by themselves to keep publishers in business. Without customers who buy books, publishers would fold, and then where would you get your books?

Silouan said...

Number one thing: A large, eclectic collection, leaning more toward used than new books. Lots of history, SF, literature, and how-to books. I love 1950s-era Popular Mechanics, Analog SF magazine, old craft books.

Don't make it too clean and retail-y. If I wanted a sterile, fluorescent-lit environment I'd go to B&N or a hospital. Some funky distinct decor, comfortable chairs, maybe a knit rug, fireplace, and a bookstore cat. Put the chairs near enough to each other and to the counter that patrons can talk if they want.

Hold book discussions. Local SF and fantasy readers would love to come discuss their happy obsessions.

Invite local libertarian, feminist, church, and environmentalist groups to come use your facility for their cell group meetings.

Sell coffee and scones if you want - or just have a big coffeepot and a bunch of proper pottery coffee mugs for patrons to help themselves.

If the store is not so much about marketing paperbacks at me as about the book-lover's experience (I think you know what I mean) then I'll be your devoted customer.

Anonymous said...

The major problem with book in general is their relative lack of liquidity of information, as well as their high price for that information.

As the effort required for that entertainment is relatively high compared to other forms of multimedia, novels and other fiction books are most likely not as popular as they once were,. Also, as a form of entertainment, they are fairly involved where I believe that people are looking for something that can be more transient entertainment.

For general information, research, etc., the internet is just too strong of a tool as compared to the internet. Now I am well aware that any swinging Joe can post a webpage and wikipedia isn't exactly an academic reference, but who goes to a bookstore to purchase a journal anyhow? The opportunity cost of both disseminating and extracting data from a digital medium is just plain lower.

A problem with books in general is that they are a physical media. The density of information is relatively low, while the media is heavy. This makes for an object that is both heavy and large. If I were to have a hard copy of every document that I have researched digitally, those books could quite easily exceeded 1,000 lbs; I would hate to even think of what the physical size of that would be. However, in a digital format, I could easily store all of that on a 1lb, 6"x2.5"x10" hard drive for a few hundred extra dollars. Now, since the commodity of paper is what increases in value, after purchasing digital copies I would be very much financially in the positive. Oh, and I can dynamically search data in a digital system, instead of relying on indexes and the Dewey decimal system.

Now, I do enjoy a good book from time to time, but their value is now more aimed for antiquity more than anything.