Friday, April 29, 2011

Generational shift?

Sad news today out of New Haven, CT, where apparently the Labyrinth Bookstore may close, as soon as two weeks from now. (I initially read this news this morning in the daily installment of Shelf Awareness.) I mentioned this store almost three years ago here, when we stopped there on a mini-tour of bookstores in Connecticut. It reminded me very much of Harvard Book Store, unsurprisingly.

The article makes the problem sound generational in a more blatant way than I've seen elsewhere. The store's manager, Martha MacDonald, is quoted as saying, “Kids will [buy a book], move seven feet away, turn on their laptops and see that Amazon is selling it for $15 less — and then say, ‘I want to return this.’” Obviously, this is troublesome.

(You'll recall that Harvard Book Store fought such behavior in a kind of mock-PSA video, "Don't be an I-Phoney, posted here.)

There was more youthful indifference mentioned, as well:
Undergraduate students generally were unconcerned by the news that the bookstore may close. Of 14 students interviewed, seven said they did not buy any books from Labyrinth in the past year, and six more had bought five or fewer. Marisa Karchin ’14 said she bought 10 books from Labyrinth Books in the past year, but said the closing would only be a minor inconvenience, as she would have shopped online instead.
Could this be true, even amongst Yale students? So college students now only see bookstores as fulfilling their reading needs, not their wants? Are we really the old people telling kids today what they're missing, while they roll their eyes and put their ear buds back in?

I think I hear Christopher sobbing, or shredding phonebooks with his bare hands in frustration. Oh wait, who gets a phonebook anymore?!


1 comment:

Raymond McInnis said...

Folks, it seems to me that there are at least two ways to look at online buying -- with the local bookstore central. Personally, I buy many used books, seldom brand new books, for background reading on my history of woodworking website. I use, exclusively, which is a database of 50 million titles, composed of the holdings of local bookstores, worldwide. In my mind, this is a strong sign of a shift from the off the street buyer to the online buyer, and unless I am crazy, means the survival of the local bookstore. Moreover, because this market is open to a worldwide audience, suddenly the secondhand book -- little in demand by the off-the-street buyer -- becomes more valuable, because of the wider range of buyers. Am I right?