Bookstores are a fading industry; we shouldn’t let them go

Over the last few years, I have seen more and more bookstores in the area close their doors. Between post-pandemic conditions and the increasing popularity of online stores like Amazon, brick-and-mortar bookstores are hard-pressed to compete.

Bookstores for me have always been a safe haven — a place to go when I want the comforting reassurance of books lining the shelves, and the knowledge that, should I find a story that catches my eye, I can buy that piece of story and make it mine. I have fond memories of visiting bookstores while growing up: spending hours strolling the shelves, pulling interesting books down and flipping through their pages, eventually finding one that I wanted to really delve into.

This is a feeling that I have not come across when in a library. I think a lot of people turn to libraries because they do not need money to access those books, and it can help cut down on environmental impacts. Libraries can be excellent for these purposes and definitely help save the strapped student’s budget when looking for class books or books for pleasure, but it does not compare to the freedom afforded by owning a book.

Owning a book gives a lot more freedom when it comes to interacting with the story. You can mark up the pages (particularly helpful in books for class!) and take time delving into the world those pages contain. A library book might provide you access to the book, but you lose the personal connection that you could build with the story. There is also always a chance that you are going to have to bring back the book before you are ready to return it. Renewals are possible and not a problem when it comes to Heckman, but if someone places a hold on it, you could be out of luck. For a pleasure book this might just generate frustration, but for a class book it could create a huge problem. Owning the book ensures that you will always have access to it and lets you deepen the connection with the content.

Bookstores also remain one of the few places in this world where technology is not a focal point. Libraries nowadays are permeated with rentable movies and TV shows and tech labs, all of which have their use, but that space does not provide a technology-free escape. Bookstores are places to stroll through aisles of books, not scroll through Instagram. They provide a relaxed environment free from the otherwise-constant distractions of modern life. A study by the University of Maryland found that reading physical books increases the ability to empathize, combats age-related mental decay, alleviates stress and depression and improves recollection when compared to digital books. Physical books can be a very influential part of increasing human well-being.

There are many who might choose libraries for the simple fact that books require natural resources via production. It may seem environmentally conscious to choose a library, but that is only when taking the physical book into account. Getting to a library also requires transportation to and from on two separate trips — a time-consuming process that creates its own kind of pollution. Once a book is purchased, it is always easily accessible.

It is also very easy to share books with friends. Like a library, borrowing and loaning books is a common practice capable of reducing pollution and building connections with other people. You might even get to know a friend better through exploring their books.

Bookstores are a key part of bringing books to people all over and can provide literary connection in a way that libraries are unable. There is comfort in knowing that your favorite books belong to you, and not just the story in the book, but the story of your life surrounding that book. Like photos, books can hold the memories of the places one has been. You might be able to take a library book with you, but at the end of the day the book gets returned, and your life moves on. The books that you keep — the books that are yours — you will always remember and they will always hold a piece of your story in return. That is not something you can find in a library.