Friday, January 1, 2016

Daily Thoughts 01/01/2016

File:PP D077 poster by grasset for a romances bookstore.jpg
Poster by Grasset for a romances bookstore, 1887

Daily Thoughts 01/01/2016

Happy New Year!

I checked the library Twitter and Facebook this morning.

I am reading Inherit the Stars by Tony Peak right now.  It is classic space opera with themes of fallen humanity, space pirates, and space salvage in it.

A Last Visit to the Barnes and Noble Near My House

On Wednesday, December 30, 2015, I made the last trip to the local Barnes and Noble.  I could see all the fixtures surrounding the walls.  Lots of the books were on sale.  I bought a few of them including two science fiction paperbacks, Guerrilla by Mel Odom and Inherit the Stars by Tony Peak.  I would read Guerrilla in one sitting that night.

The local Barnes and Noble had been at the mall for 22 years.  Now, it had been determined that it would be better to have a store with more expensive retail items than a bookstore.  This way the mall could charge more per square foot for rent.

I now live in a neighborhood with no bookstore.  This is detrimental to my work because I would visit the bookstore sometimes to see what new titles I might have missed for purchasing for  the library I work at.   It was convenient and a place to visit that was quiet and bookish.  I could look at the different sections like the computer books, science fiction, graphic novels, gardening books, cookbooks, mysteries, and other popular areas and see what was new that I might have missed from the review journals.

There is a local branch library which I probably will visit a little more.  But, it is not the same.  There is a bit of an empty feeling.  I think that business is viewing books as a commodity which can be sent through the mail or downloaded from a computer.  The browsing experience and the experience of being read to as part of a book tour or an author event are fading.

In a way, this is not a new experience for me.  In Mount Vernon, New York where I work, there is no bookstore, there is a library.  I would not say only a library because the library essentially has taken over many of the functions which a traditional bookstore would do like providing a large books browsing section, providing author events, writing workshops, and book clubs.

There is a sadness and an acknowledgment of the passing of an era.  My father equates opening a bookstore to having a shoe repair shop in terms of business.  It is not a very viable option.  The book business is changing.  There are still many independents because it is a dream for many people to open a bookstore.  However, these independents have to be more than bookstores, they often include art galleries, restaurants, toys, bars, and other options.  However, some of the new bookstores are not for profit.  They are nonprofits focused on culture.

I think this diversification of materials and services also affects libraries.  In 2001, the Mount Vernon Public Library got the Gates Computer Lab.  In 2008, Arts Westchester supported the Rotunda Gallery for local artists.  Both of these expanded the presence of additional library programming.

I think the closing of bookstores in neighborhoods changes the dynamic of libraries.  For a while, there was an idea of the Library Bookstore model where libraries would merchandise their collections like bookstores.   I think this was often an attempt to make libraries a bit more like Barnes and Noble or other book chains which were competing with us.  This is no longer a real option.  The dynamic of what a library is in terms of information and content is changing.

I think more bookstores and libraries will be closing.  Even the chain stores like Barnes and Noble will lose many of their locations.  The nearest, closest thing to a bookstore in my neighborhood is the books section in the Target store in the local mall.  I feel the books there are pretty much treated like any other item in a superstore or supermarket.  They are a commodity to be sold like apples or oranges.

The other convenient way to get books through the mail is from Amazon.  In my opinion, Amazon treats both e-books and books as a commodity for the most part.  Amazon does make some attempt at supporting new authors and has gotten into the publishing business.

I realize that only the very large libraries like Queens Library System and the large independent stores like the Strand can afford to maintain an eclectic mix with a variety of new titles.  I do hope that we will be able to maintain some of the more unique parts of our collection where I work.

The closing of the local Barnes and Noble where I live made me more aware that libraries will need to change and adapt to both new forms of retail competition and an increasing focus on the idea that books are something you download or get through the mail.

The visit was also a reminder of how Barnes and Noble used to open stores directly across from independent bookstores in an attempt to take their customer base.  I also remember when there were a few independent bookstores in Manhattan that I would go to instead of the Barnes and Noble.  Most of these are long gone.  They are a pleasant memory.

The world of creative destruction a term used in capitalism for changing economics and technology came to Barnes and Noble on Wednesday.  I am also reading about how Barnes and Noble failed to differentiate the Nook tablet.  At one point, I considered getting one, but kept reading how it was not competitive with Kindle from Amazon.     We will see what comes next.

Web Bits

Barnes and Nobles Loss More than Doubles

NY Times Launches New Sci-Fi Book Column

Reading Has Its Benefits: Infographic

Lifting the Veil on New York Public Library's Erotica Collection

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