Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Life and Times of Brick and Mortar

What if bookstores went away?

What would that world be like? 

Brick and mortar booksellers are up against an ever-rising tide of technological advancements that are making their very existence unnecessary.  In all the excitement about the admittedly wonderful new ways of buying and e-reading books, I’ve lost sight of what it might cost.

I wonder if such a world was ever imaginable to my grandfather, who opened Lemox Bookstore in Pensacola, Florida years and years ago and ran it quite successfully up until his death in the early nineties.  I imagine he would have been saddened, if not simultaneously in awe.  The man, after all, could appreciate thinking outside the box. If selling ebooks is anything, it is selling outside the box.  Quite literally, in fact.  Recently, though, his son closed the doors to Lemox Bookstore, unable to compete with the internet giants and e-readers.

Are libraries next?

What about physical books?

Is the culture of books - the face to face time you share with another book lover when you physically buy a book - in jeopardy? 

Will coffee still taste the same without the smell of ink and paper?

I know.  This is all sort of useless.  These questions are asked every thirty minutes in the business of publishing and bookselling; most answered with more questions.  Which is fine, I guess.  The future is funny about not being very specific.

I ran across this video about a man’s extraordinary efforts to keep alive his dream of brick, mortar, and second-hand books.  He is forced to run his store illegally and in secret in NYC, restricted by costs and a new business paradigm that favors giants. 

This isn’t the future of publishing.  It’s the now of publishing. 

I’m not advocating a rebellion or anything with regard to e-books, e-readers, or internet and big-box booksellers.  Enjoy your convenience.  Enjoy your savings.  I know I do.  Just remember to occasionally throw a bone to the local main street booksellers, especially the mom and pop joints.  Those places have a soul.  And take it from me, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.


  1. Great post. I too love my ereader, but I also love my paper books. I've always have both.

    Our last indie book store closed well over a decade ago in town - so sad! I love visiting them when we're out of town :)

  2. Thanks, Jemi! Shame about those indie stores. I'm actually amazed we have so many around us. In fact, one just opened in my neighborhood.

    But how cool is that underground store in the video, right?