Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Three Cheers for the Book Store

Read these.
Whatever happened to the book store? I know there are still a lot of book stores around, and books therein. But the bookstore is disappearing. 

There are all kinds of big book stores that still flourish: Chapters and Book Warehouse still thrive, and thank God for that. But for every big book store that thrives, there are others that have gone out of business. All book lovers in greater Vancouver remember Duthie Books. They operated for decades. There were branches all over the city. What a terrible loss. 

Just as some big bookstores thrive, there are some smaller book stores that flourish in Vancouver:  Blackberry Books on Granville Island, and The People’s Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive still flourish, and thank God for that. But for every small book store that flourishes, there are others that have gone out of business. Many book lovers in Vancouver will remember The Granville Book Company on Granville Street near the Commodore. They operated for years. And who can forget the excellent Magpie Magazine Gallery? I loved that place. The loss of these book stores is a terrible one for me. 

Perhaps the biggest killer of book stores is the internet. Owning and running a bookstore is a difficult enterprise at the best of times, but the difficulty in maintaining a bookstore has been made just that much more difficult by the internet: the internet is killing the book store. And I hate that. 

The internet has killed many book stores. This is true. But there are other market-driven reasons for these book stores’ demise: Big non-book stores like Costco, and Walmart sell a lot of books, and they sell them cheaply. Many people are happy to buy books from these places. Hurray for the market! I don't mind these big stores selling flats of doughnuts, vats of salad dressing, helicopter engines, and the like. But books are different. And people who work at Costco and Walmart don't care enough about books.

People who work at book stores do care about books. They love them. And more than this, there is something of a fulfilled intention in the relationship between books and the place they are sold. Surely, just as the body houses the heart that beats, bookstores house and help to fulfill the aesthetic and moral purpose of the book.

So let the book store thrive, let it flourish. Let’s not read our books online or order our books online. Let’s go to the book store. And if we do go to a book store, let’s not go to a big box non-book store: Let’s go to a real book store.


  1. Have you ever visited Powell's Books in Portland? It's an amazing store. I hope it's always there! I can't imagine a trip to Portland without blocking out some time to spend at Powell's.

  2. I heartily agree about the demise of book stores etc., though I would argue it's more perhaps the owners and stockers of places like Costco and Walmart that might not care about books as much as profits. I'm sure some staff at these places are working there to be able to afford books of their own...