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Bookstores: Is this the End?

| Community | June 27, 2019

by Natalia Radcliffe

Shopping in a bookstore is a unique experience.

When you walk in the door, your nose is bombarded with the smell of fresh ink and pages not yet opened.

You enjoy quiet music in the background, a complementing element to the almost reverent silence that you would hear in a library.

Your eyes see rows upon rows of bookshelves stuffed full of books, just waiting for you to approach and become lost in them.

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As you meander down the isles, your fingers graze over book covers of all shapes, sizes. Some are smooth, like glass, others are rougher, each one with a different story to tell.

For people growing up in the late 1900s early 2000s, bookstores were a common sight to behold.

In the Santa Clarita Valley alone, Barnes and Noble, Open Book, and Borders were all open and available to the public, full of books from every subject you could think of.

Nowadays, the Borders in the Valencia mall has gone out of business and Open Book moved from its large place in the Valencia mall to a smaller location in Canyon Country.

You can’t help but wonder: are bookstores going to become a thing of the past?

Though print books still remain the most popular form of consuming books, the use of digital media to consume books, such as reading e-books or listening to audiobooks, has been steadily growing more popular in the past few years, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January of 2018, found in the article “Nearly one-in-five Americans now listen to audiobooks,” written by Andrew Perrin.

It revealed that in 2011, 71 percent of people read a print book, in the previous 12 months, with 17 percent of people reading an e-book and 11 percent listening to an audiobook.

By contrast, in 2018 67 percent of people read a print book in the previous 12 months, while the consumption of e-books rose to 26 percent and audiobooks to 18 percent.

In the past decade or so, Barnes and Noble launched its own digital reading device, the Nook, to compete against its rival, Amazon’s Kindle.

What does this mean for bookstores?

Well, it is a matter of supply and demand.

If the consumption of e-books and audiobooks continues to increase in years to come, the demand for physical bookstores would most likely decrease, as people would turn to digital media to obtain their books.

Another factor to consider with regards to the fate of bookstores is the growing popularity of online shopping. Though the consumption of print books will probably still be popular in decades to come, the places where people buy those books might change.

About 79 percent of people make purchases online, according to another Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2015 between November and December, featured in the article “Online Shopping and E-Commerce,” written by Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson.

Smith and Anderson also revealed that, though brick and mortar stores are still popular with many people, 65 percent will compare the product’s price online vs. the store, and choose whatever is the cheapest.

In the case with books, as a general rule bookstores which sell new books, such as Barnes and Noble or Borders, are often more expensive than their online counterparts, such as Amazon.

To counter the possible growth in popularity with online shopping, bookstores are making an effort to bring in foot traffic by holding events, creating a unique experience for those that participate.

For example, Open Book as holds open mic sessions every month and Barnes and Noble has story time for kids every week as well as other book-related events. The store also offers online shopping with pickup at the store as well, to keep up with its competitors while still encouraging foot traffic into its stores.

As of now, the destiny of bookstores is still unknown. Though the consumption of digital media and online shopping has grown, there are still people who prefer to invest in brick and mortar stores.
So, to answer the question: is it the end of bookstores?

Only time will tell.

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