Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Well. I am about to lose the only brick and mortar book store that's remotely convenient. Yeah. It's a Borders.

I really tried to support it more, but most of my book purchases over the last few years other than comics have been...from Barnes & Noble gift cards. And I buy my comics from, currently and I hope for many years to come, the wonderful Fantom Comics store in Union Station. (I hope for many years to come as I've had two comic stores, one of them the absolutely fantastic Crystal City Geppi's outlet that was THE best comic store, close out from under me).

What's the big deal? We can buy books online. And that's exactly it. Borders is going down the tube because it was 'a place to buy books'. Sure, the local one had a cafe...a small one with absolutely no atmosphere. This was not helped, of course, by the store's location in a particularly boring and architecturally uninteresting (at best) mall. That was the only place in the store to sit and read and while I never tried it, I'm sure that they glared people into purchasing coffee whether they wanted it or not.

Now, I have to trek a mile and a half to the Barnes & Noble. Is it any better? Slightly. Better decorated, and the back room is a children's area with seating. But it's still a place to buy books.

I'm going to stick my neck out here.

We do not need places to buy books.

Amazon has that covered. Barnes & Noble is primarily doing better than Borders because their web site can almost compete with Amazon.

We need places to experience books.

A bookstore in the 21st century can't just offer racks of books.

There has to be a real reading space, comfortable and well lit. Obviously, it has to offer wi-fi internet. Coffee and tea? Sure. In fact, some bookstores in major cities have found they got a lot of benefit from acquiring a liquor license. And that tea had better include caffeine free herbal teas and tisanes.

How about a children's reading room with bean bags and toys as well as books?

*Regular* events. Signings and readings, lots of them. And not enough has been done with the facility to get a book printed up for you right there, on the spot. Wouldn't a copy of a book with the person's name already in it make a great gift?

Knowledgeable staff who read the stock and can make recommendations. Perhaps it is time to forget about the big box book store that sells everything. When I go to a decent comic store, I expect the employees to read the stock. I expect them to remember my tastes and make recommendations. It's harder for bookstores, because they don't have customers coming back every single week for new releases. I get that. But why not make it easier by specializing? Don't be a bookstore. Be an X bookstore.

Above all, people need to experience books. Or they...we...really will just buy everything from Amazon.com. There needs to be a value added. Music stores are already gone. So are video stores. Maybe we can save bookstores, maybe not, but there are certainly ways we can try.


  1. I remember visiting a book store in Seattle called "The Third Place" that I absolutely loved, and not because it was a book store. It was also a great coffee shop and as I recall they had an amazing pastry shop there as well, far better stocked than any B&N cafe I've ever seen. But what also got me was the fact they sold used books (!) and they had plenty of seating for just sitting and perusing through books. They also had a philosophy. Apparently the term "The Third Place" refers to one of the three places everyone needs - a place to live, a place to work, and a place to socialize. And this store obviously worked hard to live up to that idea.

    It's a shame about Borders closing, but like you, I more often buy physical books these days with B&N gift cards, and when I go to a book store, it's because I want to sit, relax, and enjoy a nice drink.

  2. Or listen to a writer read or speak. Bookstores also need to offer space to book clubs and writer's groups.