Fall of Bronx Barnes & Noble spells trouble for bookstores

Now that online retailers are chipping away at physical book sales, the days of spending hours scanning aisles in search of a good read are fading. Barnes & Noble is the last major national bookstore chain, but competition from online stores is hurting business. The chain’s first and only retail bookstore in the Bronx plans to close at the end of the year, after opening in 1999.

The closing means the Bronx will no longer have its own full-service bookstore, leaving residents to wonder where they’ll meet to enjoy hot coffee and hear an informal reading while having access to a wide variety of books. The announcement of the store's closing was understandably met with outcry from the community.

Online shopping sites like Amazon may have some very reasonable deals on books, but many shoppers miss the sense of excitement they felt while perusing bookshelves. In a bookstore, consumers can flip through the pages of a book and decide if it’s the right fit for them. In contrast, online shoppers search for and purchase a book with just a few clicks. Amazon’s simplicity is ideal for college students buying textbooks, but people who read leisurely view shopping for books as a fun experience.

I have to admit that Amazon has been my go-to for buying books. It’s fast and simple while offering low prices—something all college students seek in such a hectic atmosphere. There’s really no comparison, however, to walking into a bookstore and stumbling upon books you would have never heard of otherwise. Whether it’s a book you need to buy or one you just won’t know until you see it, maybe what you’re looking for should determine how and where you shop.

Readers experience a community feeling visiting a bookstore that can’t be replicated from online shopping. There’s greater potential for meaningful social interaction with like-minded people in a store than sitting in front of a screen.

Does this mean that literary conversation is in decline? At the very least, this type of discussion is changing—people are sharing opinions on Internet forums and comment sections instead of making recommendations to strangers in a bookstore.

We may be living in the digital age, but there is still a place for bookstores. They can be a welcome escape for those who want a little time away from our technology-driven environment.

Correction: The article states that the Barnes & Noble in the Bronx will close at the end of the year. However, it will remain open for at least another two years after an agreement was reached between the landlord, Prestige Properties, and Barnes & Noble. The store’s decision to stay will retain 50 jobs in the community. The decision was made after the article was written.