The dying American bookstore — or, perhaps, I should say “mediastore”. Brick and mortar venues where we purchase physical media containing words, sounds, or visuals are disappearing. Historically, we started out with the independent bookstores and videostores and record stores. We all remember these — the neighborhood bookstore, the Licorice Pizzas and Music Odysseys, the local video store. They were pushed out of the way by the big boys — the Borders and the Barnes and Nobels, the Virgins and the Towers, the Blockbusters. But they too have been pushed out by the monster online retailers such as Amazon and Apple Music.
Here is a collection of news chum articles on the subject:
- Mom and Pop Bookstores in LA. Here is LA Magazine’s best Mom and Pop bookstores in LA. Some great ones are in there, such as Skylight and The Last Bookstore, but they fail to discuss the great used bookstores that still remain, especially those hanging on in the valley, such as Bargain Books. Alas, some still are going away: Book Castle in Burbank just announced its closure.
- Another Barnes and Nobel Closes in West LA. Back in January, news came about about the closure of the Barnes and Nobel in Santa Monica. News also came out about the forthcoming conversion of the Westside Pavilion from retail to office space. Both reflect some disturbing trends on the Westside. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, when I was at UCLA, there were two bookstores in Westwood (Westwood Books and Pickwick, later Waldenbooks), plus the UCLA Student Store, plus used book stores, and multiple record stores. Today? None. There was Change of Hobbit and Hennessey and Ingles on Westwood. Both gone or moved. The newer malls have siphoned any life from Westwood; the loss of the anchors have killed WP. ’tis sad to see.
- Barnes and Nobel on Life Support. With everyone chasing the best price at Amazon, and Amazon getting everyone to pay to get the instant gratification, B&N is dying. Here’s an interesting essay that looks at B&N and the precarious position it is in; and here’s an editorial talking about why is it important to save B&N. The basic question is a simple one: Which is the best approach to find new authors and artists that you link: it is algorithms that recommend things to you, is it human recommendations on shelves, or is it the serendipity of discovery as you wander and explore? The death of the physical merchant leaves us at the mercy of the algorithms; it is really hard to find a book just by mere chance as you wander.