I tried to keep things simple this year and buy everybody books. Unfortunately I live in Santa Fe. Our one chain bookstore, Borders, went out of business last year. Barnes and Noble did not come in to replace them. We are left with 3-4 very tiny independent bookstores. I love independent bookstores and I'm glad they're back. I often shop there, but they have a limited selection. Often, I'm still driven to online bookstores to get certain titles out here in Santa Fe.
I had a list of 10 books it would take a big store to fill. So my husband and I drove over an hour to get to our nearest Barnes & Noble in Albuquerque. Barnes and Noble only had one book on my list, ONE! And these weren't obscure books. They were Anne Perry mysteries my mom wanted, a Mad Magazine book my nephew wanted, teen fantasy. In the late 1990s I would have been overwhelmed with selections. But Friday night I spent over an hour trying to hunt down anything to give as alternatives and left completely frustrated.
Big bookstores are constantly complaining they have no room for all the books published today. Even non-fiction and novels get a short lifespan on big bookstore shelves. If they don't sell in a few weeks, they're sent packing.
But that isn't the whole story. My husband and I took an inventory of the real estate in the Albuquerque Barnes and Noble. Large sections were taken up by:
- The deserted coffee shop
- The deserted kids playground upstairs
- The large section of crap gifts (bookmarks, book lights, journals, etc.)
- The obligatory B&N section consisting of five aisles of discount books and books Barnes and Noble produces. And even the selection here has gotten crappier over the years (you can only give a sushi-making kit to your best friend so many times).
In this store, the real estate for actual normal books was, we figured, little over half the entire floor. I told my story to five people. Bar none, they all said to me, "why don't you just get what you want on Amazon?" Why indeed did I even bother going to Barnes and Noble?