Look at all the pretty covers…

Perhaps I should have said, look at all the pretty colors. But then it sounds like I’m talking about drugs.

I’m talking about books. Maybe I am talking about drugs. At least my version of drugs.

We’re moving again. This weekend. Our new house is within walking distance of a pretty big Barnes & Noble. We had some time to kill today before we met the rental agent to get the keys. So we decided to kill time at B&N. I haven’t been to an actual, live, books-on-the-shelves bookstore since Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story signing at the end of July. That’s five months. There was a time in my life when that was unimaginable.

It has been so long I forgot how pretty bookstores are. I love how bright and shiny all the new books are on the shelves. Just seeing the displays of all the new stuff is surprisingly awesome if you’ve been away from it for a while.

Browsing the shelves is way, way, way more fun than browsing online. The covers are bigger, brighter and shinier in person. And there is something about the serendipity factor that still isn’t duplicated.

But I wasn’t tempted to buy anything. We still have 2,300 books. Print books. Dead tree books. Call them what you will. They will get packed tomorrow. We will have to unpack them again.

As much as I love to read, and as pretty as those books are in the store, books are a pain in the gluteus to unpack.  Wrong location, it’s usually my back that ends up hurting the most, not my butt.

I did not commit the cardinal sin of shopping in the store and then buying online. I could have, my iPad was in my arms. But that just seemed rude.

And there was one book I might have bought if it had been in the store. The Dreamer, by Lora Innes, is a graphic novel and it’s not available as an ebook. Probably with good reason. Even my iPad is not the best display for a graphic novel, and yes, I’ve read a few on it. But the store didn’t have it. As soon as we get settled, I’ll order it online.

What was I saying again about the pretty colors?

Bye bye Borders

It’s time to say “Goodbye” to Borders. And, like the quote from T.S. Eliot, the bookstore giant seems to be ending, “not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

It began with a glad cry, at least on the part of a lot of book lovers. I remember when the first Borders opened in the Chicago exurbs. At that time, probably in the early 1990s, it was fantastic! There were truly marvelous bookstores in downtown Chicago at that time (the late, lamented Kroch’s and Brentano’s on Wabash comes to mind) but way out in the ‘burbs, the only bookstores were Walden’s and B.Dalton’s. If you wanted the best sellers, they were fine, but for a genre reader, they always left something to be desired. For true discovery, or simply just to browse for hours in utter contentment, an expedition downtown was required.  Downtown Chicago meant an hour driving each way, navigating traffic, paying for parking, etc., etc. It could be done, but it required some planning. It was an expedition.

Borders brought a real, total, complete bookstore, with the depth of Kroch’s, or close enough, within 15 minutes. And free parking. I could stop by whenever I wanted. It was bliss. If I found a book I liked, and it was part of a series, they usually had the whole series. Rack upon rack of magazines, in all kinds of esoteric subjects. Borders represented the instant gratification of this biblioholic’s desires, transplanted to suburbia.

But the bloom fell off the proverbial rose. Barnes & Noble moved in down the street. In many cases, quite literally.  Just like Walgreens moves in near CVS or Rite-Aid, and Safeway opens its grocery chain across from the Kroger’s or the Publix, B&N moved in near Borders. But B&N learned from Borders and outdid them. The B&N built a bigger parking lot. Or picked a location with slightly better traffic. And Barnes & Noble started a discount program. Borders never seemed to figure out how good an idea that was. Instead, Borders dropped the loyalty programs that B.Dalton’s and Walden’s used to have. B&N picked up goodwill, and Borders started generating badwill. The snowball began its slide down the hill.

The pattern repeated itself when bookselling moved online. Amazon became the world’s, possibly the universe’s, biggest bookseller. Barnes & Noble started their own online bookstore. Amazon discounts books sold online. B&N’s in-store discount program is also applicable online. What did Borders do? They gave away their online bookselling to Amazon. They gave away their future. And so they are gone

Now the future is in ebooks and online sales. Amazon sells more ebooks than it does print books of all kinds, paperback or hardcover. So does B&N. Barnes & Noble is Amazon’s remaining challenger in the bookselling marketplace. And is it any wonder that B&N’s CEO works from the headquarters of barnesandnoble.com, and not from the old, traditional headquarters of the bookstore division that all of his predecessors have used? The future is in selling many more bits than books.