Could you imagine a world without bookstores? If the latest trend in closures is any indication, such a scenario could soon become a reality.
In New York City, which is often regarded as the center of the literary universe, several bookstores have closed its doors due to declining sales, rising rent costs and competitors like Amazon and electronic books. In Manhattan alone, five Barnes & Nobles stores have closed, as well as five Borders stores when the chain went bankrupt in 2011.
Smaller, mom and pop bookstores are far more vulnerable. In Harlem, residents were stunned when they discovered that cherished bookstore and the only of its kind, Hue-Man, also closed its doors. Hue-Man sold a range of books by African-American authors and often hosted book signings with Black literature’s leading authors from Terry McMillan to Bill Cosby. The owner, Marva Allen, attributed the declining business to the competitive terrain dominated by e-books.
“We were in an obsolete model, and we’re interested in figuring out what the bookstore of the future looks like,” Allen told the New York Daily News during its closing nearly two years ago.
The New York Times reports that from 2000 to 2012, the amount of bookstores in the city fell almost 30 percent. The decline in bookstores has alarmed many preservationists, publishers and authors, who have called for an intervention from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
And with chains like Barnes & Nobles expected to close roughly 20 stores each year nationwide, many concerned readers and industry insiders are calling on publishers to step in. It is said that big trade publisher companies like Penguin Random House are considering getting into the retail business to fill the many voids across the country.
But not all hope is lost. Some independent bookstores are reportedly thriving in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. Still the question is begged, what would this country look like if there were no more bookstores? Hopefully it’s one that’ll never be answered.