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Staging A Bookstore Intervention

Alexandra Petri writes an open letter to Barnes & Noble, begging it to stop killing itself. Excerpt:

Whenever you see someone you love doing something that is hurting them and you, you feel bound to say something. Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, where books are concerned. Seldom seen and soon forgot seems to be more likely to be the model. Why would you assume that if there are fewer Barnes & Nobles, there will suddenly be more people dashing to BN.com?

And physical bookstores are — as even [B&N CEO Mitchell] Klipper noted — not unprofitable. Is getting rid of them really such a good way to save money?

Physical bookstores still serve a vital role as showcases for books. These are places where people encounter many titles for the first time, titles we may decide to buy later, or may just take with us to the restroom and linger over in blatant defiance of the posted signs. We certainly would not know that Teen Paranormal Romance was such a unified genre if you did not display it so beautifully. Their ability to bring us into contact with hundreds of things we did not know we wanted is not to be underestimated. And they help even the online trade. Twenty-four percent of people who bought books from online retailers did so after seeing them in real live bookstores first, according to a 2011 survey. Yes, this is irksome if you are the book retailer, but it’s critical publicity for the book. Lose the showrooms, and the Book suffers.

Did you know that the big Barnes & Noble on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown is gone? Did you know they’re about to shut down the B&N in Washington’s Union Station? Peter Osnos tells the tale. This is really sad news to me. I’ve spent time and money in both places.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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