It’s bad news, of course. But there’s one significant fact I didn’t squeeze into last week’s feature story on Legacy Books in Plano and Dicho’s in the Bishop Arts District. Despite the general sense that bookstores have been dying off the past several years, they actually are not closing at a rate faster than they have for decades. That’s right: Amazon and the internet and Wal-Mart have not been killing bookstores at any significantly increased volume.
So what’s happening? Why don’t you see all those cozy little stores of yore?
Relatively few people are opening new ones. The old ones are not being replaced. In other words, the internet triumphalists have succeeded in convincing a great many people that books and bookstores are dying. So although they may love the idea of running their own bookstore, many people simply won’t hazard a new start-up in an industry that “everyone knows” has no future. After all, even Barnes & Noble and Borders have significantly scaled back their expansion plans. And let’s face it: Bookstores have always had a very thin profit margin.
Meg Smith, marketing director for the American Booksellers Association, argues the independent bookseller situation is not so dire nowadays. The ABA has actually seen more than 100 new members sign up each year the past three years. But the general context of ‘fewer new stores coming along to replace the old ones’ that has prevailed for a decade makes the arrival of Legacy and Dicho’s all the rarer, all the sweeter.