Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You've Got Mail & Chain Bookstores

You know You've Got Mail? Nora Ephron's cinematic fairy tale about an independent bookstore threatened by a chain bookstore?   Meg Ryan played the charming, chirpy Kathleen Kelly, owner of The Shop around the Corner, a children's bookstore. Tom Hanks played the amiable Joe Fox, owner of Fox Books, a chain bookstore that puts independent bookstores out of business.  Kathleen brilliantly reveals the beauty of children's books, while Joe has business-savvy.  And yet Joe is a good guy, genial and witty, and brings his father's and grandfather's children to The Shop Around the Corner.  Kathleen dislikes him and is unkind every time she sees him. Yet Kathleen and Joe are in love anonymously online.  Confusing, yes?  Of course I madly wanted Hanks and Ryan to get together, but chains were the evil empire in 1998 and I was scandalized.

I saw the movie again recently. John Sayles definitely didn't make it. 

Now Fox Books seems benign.  Barnes & Noble and Borders (The Foxes?) are the good guys now.  Amazon is the bad guy, and the "little" chains are going out of business.  What?  They're all three huge corporations.  I shop at all three of them.

Borders is seeking a $450 million loan from GE Capital to keep its shelves stocked and is expected to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of the month. Ten years ago it was a different story.  Borders was the most popular bookstore here.  We went there on Sundays to drink coffee and read The New York Times.  

Then I switched to B&N because Borders kept thinning its stock.

Today I went to Barnes & Noble and Borders to see how they were doing. B&N was tagging shelves and getting ready to do inventory.  It was very quiet, and I sat in a comfortable chair and drank coffee and read.  

Borders was also quiet.  It relieved me that they still sell new books.  The articles in the paper had me worried.  Losers tend to lose business, I imagine.  

The literature section is smaller than it used to be and they no longer have New Fiction & New Nonfiction shelves in the front of the store.  Instead, there is a smattering of tables with new hardbacks and new paperbacks. And no one works the floor.  It was very, very quiet.

Neither bookstore had a copy of Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches.  Very weird.   It's a best-seller. 

It's Day 5 of my Ten Months of Monasticism (Not Buying Books).

No comments: