For those keeping up with this sort of thing, you'll already know that like every other business, bookstores are suffering under a tight economy.
If you've not been in your local store lately, you'll immediately notice they're selling a lot more things than mere books. I was annoyed to see my favorite store had created new aisles for educational toys, converted their bestseller and new release section to selling e-readers, and the "employee's recommended" tables were altogether gone to make room for overpriced e-reader accessories. Some stuff has been there for ages and become part of the background I ignore, but this year, it's really in-the-face.
I get irritated, but the stores have to diversify to stay in business. Books are no longer enough.
Online ordering has cut into profits. Why buy a new book when you can get a used one for a lot less elsewhere? I can't argue against that; I have to do it myself when my poor battered bank account is screaming in pain.
Sales of e-books are also taking a bite from their profits. Why go to a store when you can download it more cheaply from your computer? Save some gas and a tree!
I'll likely do that too, though I won't get an e-reader for some considerable time. I have 300 hard copy books I need to read first. Plowing through them will allow time for those reader prices to drop.
But bookstores have other things to offer--especially to me. I use mine as part of my writing routine. When I get stuck, I go to my favorite and just hang out. All those millions of words can't help but have a positive effect on me, whether it's inspiration from a much-loved writer or another internal declaration "I can write better than THAT!" when glaring at hack work that somehow made it to the bestseller list.
I love my local store, though it is part of a mega-chain. They have good people working hard there, most know who I am, and they keep my books in stock. Certainly I don't want that to go the way of the dodo just yet! I browse, letting my mind soak in images and titles at random, not something I can do on a computer. I bring a notebook and jot stuff down for later, hoping it will develop into a new story.
Which has happened!
My glimpse for a half a second of a book cover in the mystery section sparked the idea for the new steampunk series I'm now writing. That couldn't have happened had I been at home staring at a screen. I need that store. There are few in my area, and the indie-stores I used to go to have vanished, unable to compete.
Now the mega-stores are in danger. The warning signs are as clear as those brightly packaged toys that are filling shelves that once held books.
Let's not wholly give up buying books in stores in favor of convenience. Get out this week and visit a bookstore. Check the bargain bins for Christmas presents. Meet a friend there, have some overpriced coffee, cruise the aisles.
Use it -- or we ALL lose.