However, with the downfall of Borders, and many people predicting a similar future for Barnes and Noble (unless their Nook can save them), I want to take a moment to sing the praises of these giant chain stores. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the heart of suburbia, where going to the mall was a major cultural and social event, but I have a huge soft spot in my heart for these places. I vividly remember the first time I walked into a… okay, to be honest, I can’t vividly remember if it was Borders or Barnes and Noble. They both opened close to the same time near me, they had similar layouts, and they meld together in my mind.
It really doesn’t matter, because to me, they were both like Disneyland.
I was in awe not only of the miles and miles of books, but also of all the couches and armchairs. They wanted customers to come in, relax, and read! How cool was that? And the place was so new and clean and shiny and inviting! I remember people questioning if it made sense to encourage people to sit in the store and read — wouldn’t they just flip through books and never buy them?
Maybe some people did that, but the stores’ marketing plan totally worked on me. I’d take my time and casually peruse the stacks until I found just the right book, pluck it out, fold myself into an armchair, and even if I sat for an hour, I wouldn’t finish. But since I’d started the book, of course I had to buy it… and quickly come back for more.
Today, most of the giant chain bookstores aren’t quite so new and shiny, but I’m still just as fond of them — especially their kids’ sections. No, they don’t compare to my favorite indie kids’ book stores, but the selection is always solid, and one of the local B&N kids’ areas even has a large stage in it. My then-five-year-old and I once spent two full hours there, performing every one of Mo Willems‘ Elephant and Piggie books (which are brilliant — Mo used to write for Sesame Street, so clearly he’s a genius). My daughter always played Piggie; I was Gerald. No one minded that we were there so long, or that we were doing dramatic interpretations. That’s what the stage was for. And we happily paid for our two hours of entertainment by leaving with an armful of books.
I’m all for the convenience, selection, and low cost of Amazon.com. I buy a lot of books there. I love the immediacy of e-books, and have several loaded on my iPad. I will continue to frequent the wonderful indie book stores, and offer them my support. But I am very sad that it seems the age of the giant, roomy, kick-back-and-relax-awhile bookstore is fast becoming a thing of the past.
How do you feel about the big chain bookstores? Are you sad to see them heading the way of the dinosaurs and Blockbuster Video? Do you have great memories of time spent there?
Hmmm… I happen to be at a coffee shop right across from a big chain bookstore right now. I might have to go in and look around. I know my grandmother could use a new large-print book…
I’ll just run across and check it out. 🙂