Is the increasing use of bookstores as places not just to buy books but to sit around reading them contributing to the decline of the modern lending library? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially since I tend to frequent both the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public library and two booksellers: the ubiquitous Barnes & Noble and Posman Books in Grand Central Terminal.
More and more, I see patrons spread out around the stores, reading. This is problematic. No. 1, it makes it incredibly difficult to browse for a purchase. Much to my combined annoyance and chagrin, the B&N romance section seems to be where people actually conduct their romances. Can’t you find some place else to canoodle or have a breakup fight? Stop looking at me like I’m encroaching on your private time, this is a bookstore, not your house. And recently, at a store, a friend and I were talking about the latest romance releases and cracking up over a few erotic romance cover blurbs and a guy who was sitting a few feet away seemed annoyed that we were daring to talk while he was trying to read. Dude, buy the book and leave.
Because the second problem here is that people are reading brand-new books cover to cover and putting them back on the shelves. The spines end up broken, pages bent… and a place like Barnes & Noble will go ahead and continue to sell the product at full price, even though someone has basically turned it into a secondhand book.
It’s as though people don’t realize that there are places already in existence where you can read a book without paying for it. And, yes, you can sit on the floor and read in a library, too. I can’t remember if I saw this on Overheard in New York or somewhere else, but it was a bit of quoted text where a girl was asking if there was a Netflix for books. Yes, for the love of God, there is. And it’s free. It’s a venerable institution, thousands of years old, and you’re not going to be encouraged to buy a frappuccino and a Zagat guide while you’re there.
I love buying books. I really do. But I also know that checking them out from the library is a)cheaper and b)more efficient. And a book being a bit worse for the wear is not unexpected.
I shudder to think that a Barnes & Noble may someday be all people think of when it comes to finding books. Or is that day already here?