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article imageOp-Ed: Death of the book — Can bookstores survive in the era?

By Yukio Strachan     Feb 1, 2012 in Business
E-readers such as the Amazon Kindle are hot. Users can carry all the books from their home library right in the palm of their hand. Literally. Amazon's chief executive says this is the way of the future without the need for bookstores. Is he right?
If Jonathan Franzen, the bestselling author of "The Corrections" and "Freedom" has any say in it –– bookstores, and the physical books that fill them –– are here to stay.
“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of ‘Freedom,’” Franzen said, the UK's Telegraph reported. “I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it's pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now.”
But Jeffrey P. Bezos,'s chief executive officer thinks the Amazon Kindle Fire is pretty good technology, too. Apparently, he is not alone. reported that analysts project that Amazon sold between 4 and 6 million Kindle Fire units alone in one quarter.
Maybe this is part of the reason why a bold New York Times article, “The Bookstore's Last Stand” raised questions about the possibility of bookstores, like Barnes and Noble, dying a cruel, slow death right in front our eyes, due to the rise of e-readers, like the Amazon Kindle.
Amazon s Chief Executive officer with The Amazon Kindle Fire
Amazon's Chief Executive officer with The Amazon Kindle Fire
Said the Times, "Amazon now wants to cut out the middleman — traditional publishers — by publishing e-books directly."
Will physical bookstores survive? Slate's Matthew Yglesias asks. He adds" they'll survive because (some) people have warm/fuzzy/nostalgic feelings about bookstores."
Yglesis can count me as one of those people who have warm fuzzy feelings about bookstores. Publishers count on bookstores to evoke these feelings, according to the Times. “Surveys indicate that only a third of the people who step into a bookstore and walk out with a book actually arrived with the specific desire to buy one.”
The Christian Science Monitor points out, after the Borders closings, Barnes & Nobles, for many Americans, is the only place, save for public libraries, “where readers can browse aisles at will” and stumble on new literary gems.
"And that's the point at which I'll start getting nostalgic," echoes Kevin Drum political blogger for Mother Jones . "I do like to browse — and while Amazon is doing everything it can to make books browsable online, it's not the same." He's right.
There's something about browsing books in bookstores, the scent of a new hardcover book, the feel of a book that's part of the experience of buying the book itself.
A woman engrossed by a book in Barnes and Noble.
A woman engrossed by a book in Barnes and Noble.
Michael D. Dunn
The bookstore can be a refuge, a shelter from the storms of life, where the rest of the world fades away, if just for a little while. It is here, surrounded by a variety of books that one, for some reason, may catch your eye and offer the the very answer you need to weather the storm.
“These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves," Gilbert Highet once said.
Said Drum: "So if B&N goes under, there will literally be almost no place left in my neck of the woods to just walk around and look for a good book."
Does this mean that the e-readers should die? Not at all.
Although I do not expect to purchase a Kindle or any of its siblings, I will admit to being captured by its sleek design. I will admit to being impressed by its library lending capabilities at over 11,000 libraries. But none of its bells and whistles and then some, can replace or substitute the very human connection for physical books and the bookstores in which they live.
“Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way?" Franzen asks, "I don’t have a crystal ball.”
Neither do I. But William J. Lynch Jr., the C.E.O. of Barnes and Noble, in an interview with the Times, sounds as though he may own one. “Our stores are not going anywhere,” he said.
What do you think? Can we pitch physical books?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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