I was genuinely saddened when I heard the news yesterday, although not surprised. I like Waterstone’s a lot. I love browsing, coming across books that I don’t see anywhere else in Dublin in their excellent history section. I liked their staff, who actually read books. I liked the atmosphere in the store. Yet I’m not surprised that they’re closing, because in the last two years I’d say I spent less than €75 in the store.
That’s the problem. I go in, have a browse, and if I see something I really like, I’ll probably buy it cheaper on Amazon. Yet there’s the hard thing for Waterstone’s, because without them I probably would not have seen the book in the first place.
Book stores, and music stores, are both being hammered by the wider choice and cheaper prices available online, and also by the higher overheads of maintaining a main street bricks and mortar presence. They still have the impulse advantage, that DVD or book you just happen to see at just the right price and snatch it up, but that’s not enough to build a business model on, is it?
What’s the future: A world without bookstores? Personally, I suspect we may end up with huge book warehouses on the outskirts of cities, IKEA style operations which become Saturday afternoon destinations for bibliophiles, with upmarket dining and facilities for book clubs and author lectures. Through sheer size they may be able to compete with the web on price and choice. And who knows, maybe even bring like-minded people together: Singles night at BookMegaMart, anyone?