Where have all the bookstores gone?

BookwormRemember the good ole days when you had a compendium of choices when it came to a good place to buy a book? I’m talking about pre-Internet. I remember those times, and I miss them.

Little by little, I have witnessed the closure of brick-and-mortar stores, and big-name stores alike.

When Borders Bookstores closed back in 2011, that to me, was very upsetting.  Borders had always been my favorite place to shop. (Now I have nothing against Barnes & Noble, but at the time of Borders, there wasn’t a B&N near me). Even if I knew what I wanted upon going in, I would still spend hours in the store, just browsing, and making a mental list of the books that I planned to buy on future visits. The closest Borders to me was about twenty-five minutes away, yet nonetheless, I also knew where the next three closest Borders Bookstores were located. I have a lousy sense of direction, and can get lost just going across town, yet I knew my way to the bookstore from anywhere. And during college, I worked at a Waldenbooks, which later became Borders Express, (Waldenbooks and Brentano’s were both a part of Borders as it was). I loved working there, and I also got a 33% discount on all books, not just at my store, but at any Borders.

Eventually however, competition from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com, forced the closure of Borders; Barnes & Noble, continues to face competition from Amazon.

Williams' Book Store Photos

Left: Front of Williams’ Book Store, San Pedro, California. Right: Sign outside the store, from the City of Los Angeles, declaring Williams’ Book Store as the Oldest Operating Book Store in Los Angeles.

As if this weren’t enough, my small hometown independent bookstore, Williams’ Book Store in San Pedro, CA closed down after 104 years in business. It was the oldest operating bookstore in Los Angeles.  Opened in 1909 by Welsh immigrant E.T. Williams, the bookstore survived two world wars, and had become a well-known fixture in the town of San Pedro. It was a small bookstore, but I always found what I wanted. And being a neighborhood store, Williams’ also featured local authors, and sold many books about San Pedro. Yet again, Amazon and big-box bookstores became too much for the local bookstore to compete with, and they were forced to close down.

And I learned only yesterday that another local independent bookstore, and another that I used to work in, is closing down on June 15th. Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach opened in September 2011; not too long after Borders went out of business. It specializes in science-fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, paranormal romance, and young adult fiction. Being a science-fiction/fantasy writer, and an avid reader of the same, I not only enjoyed my time working there, but found it a great place to find the books that I was most interested in. Not to mention that while working there I got to meet three of my favorite science-fiction and fantasy authors: Larry Niven, George R.R. Martin, and Jim Butcher. Now however, Mysterious Galaxy has decided that they “will be expanding our events business to include more community-focused events in partnership with local businesses, conferences, authors, and publishers.” They decided to do so without a physical store that is open to the public, so that store will close down, but they will use the space as a warehouse for their events. They have another store in San Diego that has been there for twenty years now; this one will remainClassical Books open and will be moving to a larger location.

However, my ever-shrinking amount of choices to buy physical books has nearly shrunk to nothing. The only remaining nearby bookstore is Barnes & Noble, which has been my go-to bookstore for years now anyway. I can easily spend hours upon hours in any bookstore and B&N is not any different.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like Amazon, but I have rarely–and I mean rarely–used it to purchase books. I’ve purchased other items: movies, coffee mugs, video games, etc, but I can only recall two times when I purchased a book from Amazon; I also remember when books were the only items that Amazon sold. On that note, I remember when Barnes & Noble was online only.

In the used-book department, there is Book-Off, the nearest one to me located in Torrance. They also sell movies, music, video games, and electronics. They rarely have brand-new, just released books, but you may be able to find something amongst their used books that is of interest to you, as I have done so many times. They even have some of those classical literature books, the antique-looking ones that seem as if they have been around since the Middle Ages, and I love those types of books, too.

And there will always be the monthly library book sales.Bookstore

But otherwise, I fear that online bookstores will soon be the only bookstores available to the public. It’s understandable I guess, what with all of the ebooks, and people buying these for use on their Kindles, Nooks, and so on. I, on the other hand, absolutely refuse to buy an e-reader, until it becomes the only way to read a book, which it will, no doubt, be one day. I still love the feel of an actual physical book in my hands as I read it, and the sensation of turning the actual pages. No e-reader can compensate for that.

I know that I am not the only person who still loves to wander through bookstores, to hold and read physical books, but there are fewer and fewer of us. And really, as long as people are reading, I guess it really shouldn’t matter which medium they use to do it. Even so, was it worth it to download e-books and buy books online, to the point where we drove independent bookstores, (and Borders, too), out of business?

I think not.

Heart BooksSo in closing, I would like to say this: if you have any nearby independent bookstores, support them. Go in, buy a book, (or two, or three), get to know the people working there, who may be struggling to keep their business above water. It may be easier to stay home and go online to buy your next book, but it just isn’t worth it. Especially when you see a bookstore that you love, one that you have grown used to seeing in your neighborhood or on your daily commute, slowly die, before closing its doors for the final time.




2 thoughts on “Where have all the bookstores gone?

  1. If you have a goodwill bookstore by you, count your blessings! A lot of people are getting rid of their books because of clutter or a lack of care for literature and who knows why else. I’ve gotten some incredible deals, like the entire harry potter for less than the costt of the first book alone


    • I never thought about the goodwill bookstores, but I don’t think that there are any near me. I’m going to look into it though and see if I find one. I’m sure you’re right, they must have some pretty good deals there. I bought each of the Harry Potter books individually, so I know what a great deal you got on the entire series for the cost of only one book!


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