You probably heard the news today. That dreadful news many writers knew would happen sooner or later, but probably hoped to some degree that it would never happen.
Barnes & Noble announced that a third of its stores will close during the next decade. That means of the 689 current stores it has now, about 200 will close. That sounds like a lot. Frighteningly a lot, even if the number isn’t that big. It does beat out the way Borders closed down in a rapid pace in 2011, due to financial difficulties, but it still sounds ominous.
When I first heard whispers about B&N closing some of its stores, my first thought was, “Oh no! No more books! Where am I going to browse lazily during a free day? Where can I go to write, surrounded by coffee and bookshelves?” I spent a lot of time at my local B&N writing my book. Being in its small cafe area felt great because having so many books filling your view inspired me to one day be an author myself. Even though I chose to self-publish my novel as an eBook, being at B&N while writing felt motivating.
But am I a hypocrite to feel sad that my favorite writing place and store is closing due to readers preferring eBooks? After all, releasing an eBook myself and not a POD book was really me encouraging the use of eBooks rather than an actual book.
But why did I do that? Besides choosing to self-publish, I chose to release my book on Kindle and Smashwords because it was easy – both with time and finance. I would’ve invested into printing copies of my book to give to stores where I live – but the last indie store lost it’s lease and Barnes & Noble’s regulations for self-published books were kind of tight. So, I stuck with the eBook.
Am I to blame for the decline of paper-and-cover books? Of course not. I would never had released my novel as an eBook if there weren’t so many book lovers buying them. It’s kind of a two-sided issue: many of us like to hold and smell an actual book, but find eReaders so convenient. Even authors who prefer selling their work as traditional books admit to downloading books onto their eReaders for the speed and to read while traveling.
It is like we are own worst enemies. We want book stores to stick around forever, but yet we fuel the digital age by reading eBooks. We like the atmosphere of a bookstore, but the speed of downloading a book is more proof of society’s poor attention span as of late.
I think the decline of bookstores and actual books has more to do with human nature than technology itself. Technology is not the monster, perhaps we are.
And also, another culprit is online shopping. How many of us order books through Amazon? I’ve done it, when I wanted a book that wasn’t easy to find – plus, I just so happen to have a coupon.
I hope my local B&N stays around for a long while. It is the only bookstore left where I live. The local Target has a book section, but that means nothing in comparison to a bookstore. There’s a couple of second-hand bookstores where you can sell your old books, but they are small and are a hike from where I live.
Also, where will I go to write my books? I do go to Starbucks and Panera, but sometimes I need a change of scenery and I go to B&N to its Starbucks. It is not easy getting a spot, or even an outlet for my laptop, but the atmosphere is worth it. Being surrounded by the works of the authors who came before me is inspiring.
I wonder how future writers will be inspired if bookstores become obsolete? I guess glancing at their eReaders may help them move along.