Back in early 1977, a double full page ad appeared in the Boston Globe announcing New England’s first mega bookstore – a Barnes and Noble at Downtown Crossing in Boston (it may not even have been called Downtown Crossing way back then). Barnes and Noble grew rapidly and soon a competing superstore, Borders, arrived on the scene. It was a great time for those of us who loved to browse through bookstores, to experience the serendipity of the unexpected “find” or the early arrival of a soon-to-be bestseller by a favorite author.
For decades, these places thrived as small independents were chased out of business by their mammoth competitors. But now, with online ordering and electronic editions, even these big bookstores are feeling squeezed. The recent announcement that Borders, in serious decline for at least five years, will now liquidate all of it’s assets, is the best proof of that.
Ironically, the erosion of the mega bookstore might present an opportunity for a Renaissance of small, independent book sellers. People always want to be in the company of books, with others who feel likewise about the written word. When you add author readings, poetry sessions and other live gatherings – even if a type of “covert charge” was needed – there could be a business plan that works. I hope so.