Thursday, August 30, 2012

Feeling Scarcity

I have not been inside a Barnes & Noble store in a long time. There used to be a Borders close to where I live and I usually went there - mainly for the experience and nostalgic reasons - it was the first bookstore  I visited when I first came to America. I had acted like a kid in a candy store back then and some of the wonderment never quite faded. Borders was like my sugar fix without the guilt or the calories.

This is not a critique of B&N - they are doing what they have to do so they don't go the Borders way. There were some four of five titles I was interested in checking out (all related to the same subject) so I could decide which book best met my needs. My area of interest was represented in the store by one row of books in a small shelf - a dozen volumes at best. It took me a while to register the scarcity. Back when Borders was still around, I could easily get close to a hundred books on a topic, there was so much to choose from and discover - I frequently lost track of the hours I spent there. This was back when they had a local jazz band play on Friday evenings -it was a very different time. I have bought a lot of coffees at that store but usually ended up buying the books I wanted from Amazon.

It is because of shoppers like me that stores that want to be more than showrooms for books are dying out. B&N now carries a sampling platter in their store. Maybe they will be forced to reduce their brick and mortar footprint even more when most of their customers buy online and have the material delivered electronically via the Nook. The actual store is a relic from the past that  brings some traffic in and possibly creates a connection between the physical book and the reader. But it is no longer able to be the bookstore  of the past because that would be its death sentence.

Spending the hour at B&N reminded me of how I do all of my reading online - via my RSS feed.  Both online and in real life, we are being enabled to consume information in an endless stream on unrelated chunks. It offers the convenience of a fast food drive through and about as much nutritive value. The organization of the books on the shelves mimicked that choppy randomness of media online - there is no room for a languid pace, to explore and discover one thing at a great depth. B&N had covered over a hundred topics in a collection of a few hundred books stacked on those shelves. I could not tell what the criteria was for the books that made it to the shelf and what worked against those that got left behind - which was all of the titles I was looking for.

1 comment:

Hope said...

Seriously. I miss those days of lazy browsing and forgetting the time, in a book store. I am afraid too about the future of book stores and paper-books. The e-book trend is so picking up that people have stopped buying paperbacks totally. :( I miss them.