The times — they sure are a-changing! If you live in the United States, you may have heard last week that the embattled Borders bookstore chain had been forced to liquidate, closing down literally miles of bookshelf space, and leaving many without jobs. It’s always a sad thing whenever many people lose their jobs, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious in a digital information age, that if bookstore chains intend on surviving they need to adapt to the growing and evolving ways people are obtaining their books.
We’ve seen this pattern already in the burgeoning online way people are obtaining their music — I’m talking the legal ways, such as iTunes and online services like the new Spotify, for just a few examples. Think of the once dominant Blockbuster Video’s recent bankruptcy, and now streamlining down to only 500 stores in the US. Many a brick and mortar store specializing in electronic entertainment such as music and movies have gone the way of the dodo bird due to their inability to also corner the market online, or in some cases, bother to adapt to it and the concept of supply and demand. People are increasingly opting to go the way of doing much of their lives online.
This is where bookstores need to step up their game and adapt to the rapidly growing trend of digital readers and online obtaining of information and entertainment. I personally cannot remember the last time I purchased a music CD from a store, and then went and manually added it to my iTunes. But I can tell you I buy directly on iTunes all the time. I cannot remember the last time I went and rented a DVD, but I rent movies online all the time. And now, I’m increasingly buying hard copy books less and less because it’s harder for me to obtain them in my language, but also only out of necessity if it isn’t available in Kindle format yet.
As an avid reader, I thought I’d never warm up to an electronic e-reader until I actually tried one. Don’t knock it till you try it! It’s true, nothing compares to the feeling of reading an actual paper book. But there are a lot of things I like about my Kindle, one of them being the fact it’s much easier to read without turning pages but just touching a button, and the fact you can bring many books on it, unlike in actual books, if you wanted to bring with you on a trip the eight books you may have on the go, it becomes more bulky, thus giving e-readers an advantage. I personally think I’m reading a lot more and finishing books faster since I bought a Kindle thanks to the convenience of such a small device containing so much to read.
As an overseas missionary living in Peru, I find an e-reader of the utmost necessity since it’s much more difficult to obtain books in my native tongue here, therefore the internet and online bookstores, such as Amazon, help me keep up on world news and and obtaining the latest books I seek to read. Barnes and Noble for example, had already adapted to this trend and release a device to rival the Kindle, called the Nook, which has for the first time just barely beat Amazon at their game.
Barnes and Noble seemed to rightly understand that the way to grow, was to offer what customers want in the way they are now wanting it. We have seen this pattern with digital media, it’s only a matter of time before it is an even more pronounced change and tipping point with books, and maybe even books only being offered in digital format due to the costs of printing not being found as profitable anymore. The liquidation of Borders is just a sign of the times, a reference point of a bygone era that may be jumping into the past faster than some of us may think.
Who knows, but you better hold on to your books. They might be a collector’s item sooner than later.