Bookstores in Crisis

Ava Soleibe, Staff Writer

There are a few precious things humanity has produced with absolute perfection: The Harry Potter series, which has nearly become standard history textbooks; Sitcoms; Paint-your-own-pottery shops; Saturday Night Live; Croissants. Among this list of golden achievements are bookstores. Those loyal establishments that dare you to try and resist the spell of the endless vibrant covers. Wonder, inspiration, and the feeling of being known are found around the corner of every shelf. In a planet filled with pressure to conform, bookstores refuse. At the rate of modernization that the world propels every day, inevitably, institutions kin to the bookstore are being ousted. Bookstores are wrongfully diminishing and deserve to be saved.  

Unlike other retail stores that exist purely for the sale of products, bookstores are beloved for cultivating community. According to, The Irish Times “We need to understand that bookstores are not just a place to sell a product. Bookstores are one of the most important elements on any high street-we give advice, we give directions, we act as tour guides, and we host events to help keep local communities alive. We also try to sell them books.” This ardent description of a typical local bookstore illustrates their unmistakable charm. There is a reason I feel a pull towards the nearest bookstore in any new town, city, or neighborhood I find myself in. Newfound places to buy books are as different as the locations themselves. Even chain bookstores find ways to differentiate. Upon entering a Barnes and Noble, there are forefront tables that showcase authors local to the area, or books that pertain to events such as Black History Month or International Women’s Day.  

Convenience drives our economy, our lifestyles, our choices. The massive online presence of Amazon has loomed over physical bookstores and plucked them out of existence. Online shopping has allowed readers to add whatever necessities they require to an order of books. This is encouraged by accessibility. Online for “Where the Crawdads Sing”? Why not pick up some paper towels and toothpaste? Writer’s Digest points out, “Chain bookstores, like all other physical book vendors, do offer something that online vendors cannot: an enjoyable browsing experience.” Scrolling and typing in a search box pales in comparison to searching for reading material, whether aimlessly or not. With online book shopping, there is no way to be hypnotized by a cover. The symphonic sound of flipping pages is absent. This leisurely browsing promotes discovery. While an online shopping experience will cater to the individual, bookstores have no such aim. They will much quicker allow one to expand their literary horizons and explore a diverse set of choices, than recommend a read that is similar to something bought prior. Harvard Political Review states, “Physical bookstores still serve a vital role as showcases for books. Their ability to bring us into contact with hundreds of things we did not know we wanted is not to be underestimated.” All of bookstores’ innate power is found within their abilities to invite people in and allow them to find something new to connect with.