Jack's Book Blog: The Demise of Bookstores

Cody's_sHi, my name is Jack. I’m the new Left Coast Writers® administrator.  One of my projects is updating the database, and a few days ago I was focusing on bookstores.  For this project I was to normalize some of the tags for all the bookstores in our database, and also to look up to see if any of the information we had on them had changed.  Also, if any of them were no longer around, for one reason or another, I was to remove them from the database. Much to my dismay this was the case for many of the bookstores.

I would continually look up a bookstore that had been around for decades just to find it had recently closed its doors for the last time. Many privately owned bookstores, both iconic and small-time, have had to do just that in the last decade or so. Many of them have been shoved out of the market by large chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble or online booksellers such as Amazon. They have also been badly hurt by the recent popularity of e-books and e-readers like the Kindle. These things, along with a steady loss of interest in reading precipitated by the popularity of motion pictures and television and a lack of focus on that skill in our schools, have made so many great bookstores that people have known and loved for years go out of business. While working on this project, I have read numerous tales of people who had been going to these stores for years; it really breaks my heart to know that they are now gone forever.

I remember one person talking about how he had been going to a specific bookstore since his childhood.  He would hang out there all the time and knew the people who had worked there; he even knew the cat that had lived there for years, and he used to play with it whenever he went there. But that store went bankrupt a few years ago and had to close. I kept on reading story after story like that until I was on the verge of tears; these bookstores can be such welcoming and intimate places that when they close down, it’s like a close friend has died. This has affected many places even in the Bay Area. Iconic stores like Cody’s and almost all of the Black Oak branches, and smaller more specialized stores like Mama Bears, A Different Light and Get Lost have all closed within the past ten years or so.

I urge all of you reading this to go to your favorite local bookstore and support them through these tough times. You never know, you could pass by the storefront of a bookstore you have loved for years but have not recently gone to and find that it is now nothing but an empty space.

—Jack Betterly-Kohn