Thursday, July 02, 2009

Rambling Post About Dying Bookstores and the Internet, Blah Blah Blah

According to the Chicago Reader, Powells Books—which isn’t just the mega-store in Portland, OR—is closing two of its Chicago locations. (The first Powells ever is still going to stand on 57th Street.) The Burnham Park store I knew about. They’ll be gone by the end of the summer (50% off fiction and probably damn near everything right now), but the one on Lincoln Avenue will likely stay for some time before going belly up. The store’s merely “for sale” so, until they find a buyer, there will be a Powells on Lincoln. I like that store and will lament its passing, but, until then, I will scavenge the hell out of the place.

More and more stores are biting the proverbial dust. I get it—reading has long had to compete with movies and TV and sex and booze and drugs, and bookstores have had to compete with stores that sell clothing and shoes (same thing?), so the old indie shops are going (pardon the literary reference) the way of all flesh. There’s so much data and so many books written about this subject (now there’s irony), the best one I’ve seen being Reluctant Capitalists by Laura J. Miller. It’s worth a look if this interests you. What interests me is building a library, and while the internet makes this easier than ever, I do still prefer to discover books in a real brick and mortar store. “Virtual” is a word that has evolved in the last few decades, going from pejorative to a banal, customary term applied to the vast, dispassionate delights offered up on the information highway. When did we get so ga-ga over gadgets? I mean, I love a lot of them as well (I am, after all, blogging about this shit), but are we so quick to sell out for shimmering digital images and phones that get smaller and smaller and smaller?

I expected subpar stores like Edgewater’s come-and-gone Kate the Great Book Emporium (the name of the place was its first, though not its biggest, problem), but what about small, smart shops like Edgewater’s deceased Left of Center? Why did that space go away so quickly and merge with Metropolis? It had the makings of a great neighborhood store with small, dedicated locals fighting for its survival. I guess those supports were just too small.

Sadly rent is not so high online. The stores are biting the dust from their shelves. I know, I sound like an old man bitching and moaning, but where better to bitch and moan than a blog?