The corner bookstore is supposed to go extinct once Amazon takes over the world. If Borders — and maybe even mighty Barnes & Noble’s — couldn’t fight off the behemoth, how would the lowly local shop even stand a chance?
Well, most don’t, but it may be possible for some, and here’s why.
Mark Mason at the Spectator just wrote about a bookstore that recently opened up near him, and is thriving. He makes an intriguing argument that bookstores may still have a future — in secondhand books.
If the trend towards e-books continues, and such physical copies as people do buy are delivered by post, the newbies may well get vapourised. That will leave us, however, with literally tens of millions of physical books from the BC era (BeforeComputers). They’ll be sitting there on people’s shelves and in their attics, and sooner or later at least some of them will need new homes.
Meanwhile, as fingers sweep over iPads and thumbs press Kindle buttons, people will yearn (as they always have, and always will) for Something Different. The novelty value will be in physically browsing a shelf, not for the few dozen titles that are out that month and you already know about from Front Row and the newspaper review pages, but for titles you’ve never heard of, or meant to read but never got round to reading, or whose cover just plain intrigues you.
As hard copy books go the way of the typewriter, that novelty value may be all they have left. But that might not be as bad as it sounds.
Nostalgia is very marketable. When we remember the past in a positive way, we’re able to shape the memory into a happier version of itself — and that’s a feeling we all love. It also makes us feel younger, taking us back in time.
Yes, independent bookstores are being (and will continue to be) whittled down severely, but once e-books take over, there may yet be hope on the other side for those that remain.
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