Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Paul Constant has a post on SLOG bemoaning the loss of indie bookstores.

It kind of irked me so I wrote a HUGE comment in reply to that original post, but it's far too long to post there, so I'm posting it here:
ya know, it IS kind of sad when big chains kill off locally owned independent book stores, but why should books be any different than any other commodity? Why is it a greater day for mourning when your local "Book Nook" is forced to close than when it's "Barney's Friendly Hardware" or "Appleoff Family Appliance"? Is the corporate commercialization of certain kinds of businesses taboo because those businesses are cute and beloved?

That's kind of silly.

We live in a capitalist society where the goal is to make increasing large amounts of profit. That's both a good and a bad thing but the alternatives are totalitarianism and socialism. Socialism has some advantages, but it's not perfect, and is it really the responsibility of a socialist government to financially support heartfelt businesses like indie bookstores, because they make us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside?

uh, no.

And the chain bookstores ARE kind of soulless but as a kid growing up in a small town Midwest town, my local book buying was confined to what they had at the local Pamida (a regional, rinky-dink version of Walmart) in their tiny book section, or what was on those wire display units at the local pharmacies. If I wanted to go to a real bookstore, my choices were a Waldenbooks or a B. Dalton in the nearest "big" cities of St Joe, Missouri or Topeka, Kansas...and you know what, thank god for those chain bookstores. And, both Topeka and St Joe had indie bookstores, but they weren't that great...lots of popular paperbacks, magazines and large Christian sections...they weren't the twee, wood floored, coffee scented enclaves of knowledge and wonderment presided over by quaint, loving bibliophiles...it seems like they were usually run by prune-faced, overweight matrons or dim-witted teens that weren't that knowledgable or willing to recommend a regional literary delight. And it seems like the majority of clerks in chain bookstores are booklovers themselves, happy to recommend good books they've encountered and more than willing to promote unsung authors. And, if anyone thinks that the demise of any of the big book chains is going to be GOOD for booklovers, and that the indie bookstore is going to make some sort of huge comeback, I think you're deluding yourselves. Books have awful profit margins, retail is a bitch and the result is going to be fewer bookstores, both chain and indie, and people not going to have the option to personally buy ANY books inside a bricks and mortar store...and that sucks

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