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The Demise of the Corner Bookstore

You see it just about everywhere: independent and chain bookstores closing. The internet and Amazon have changed forever the process for buying and reading books. Audio books, Kindle and other technologies have placed the paper pages in peril. In fact, look at what happened to Borders and Barnes & Noble … closings and downsizing. It’s hard work out there, competing with easy-to-use, online sources of everything.

Surely some people are sticking with physical, hard-copy books. Yes, libraries are still around with volumes upon volumes of books. However, library science has become aware of the dramatic impact of screen reading and has accommodated digital desires within library confines. Universities all across the nation are purging books to make better use of library space.

Curling up with a book today may mean taking an iPad to the couch and covers. Does the physical involvement with a book really matter? Well, let’s take a look at what some researchers say about hard-copy reading versus digital delivery. Research tells us our brains process book text differently than screen copy. A report in New Republic explains that book reading encourages more and deeper reading and thus better comprehension.

Magazines have quickly shifted to an online approach that is highly adaptable, instantaneous and endless. While there are many die-hard fans of paper books and magazines, the number of people turning to online book versions has dramatically increased in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who read books on tablet computers has increased nearly fourfold between 2011 and 2016 (from 4 percent to 15 percent), while the share who reads books on smartphones has more than doubled (from 5 percent to 13 percent). The number of Americans who read books on desktop or laptop computers has also increased, although by a more modest amount.


One thing about a print book is the battery doesn’t die and you don’t have to turn it to airplane mode on takeoff. However, you want to read the prose in larger, bolder type? That’s quickly done with the touch of a screen or button. It’s a lot about convenience over tactile satisfaction with ink and paper. I used to love to read the Sunday paper and get all that grimy ink on my hands. No longer.

The ease of ordering a book online cannot be understated. Do you want it signed? No longer do you have to go to a bookstore and wait in line for the author to autograph a copy. Instead, just order a signed copy online and wait for its arrival, usually within days.

In fact, the ability to order a hard-copy book is immediate and satiating. Want it now and cheaper? Order a virtual copy. What about that road trip? Stream an audio book or take it on a CD.

Convenience, cost and compromise. The digital version is not quite the same but it sure is easy. But what will you do with all those cool bookmarks you picked up in Europe?

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