I Miss Bookstores in Malls – Redux

My original post on this subject is back at my old Fantasy Debut blog. Since I put up the post back when Border’s financial woes first went public, I thought I’d revisit the topic now, three years later, as Border’s goes bankrupt.

I still think it was a mistake to take bookstores out of the malls, and to put them in bigbox stores in strip malls. I know that the rent on those mall stores was expensive, but I’m not sure the addition of coffee shops made up the difference. The coffee shops held no attraction for me. I don’t go to the bookstore to eat, or even to sip coffee while reading. I don’t drink coffee. The only time I ever went to the coffee shop is when my daughter wanted a hot cocoa, or the very occasional times I would meet someone at the bookstore. When I go to the bookstore, I go to buy a book, and then I want to leave a soon as possible so I can plop on the couch and read it.

I know, I know. I can’t judge the behavior of everyone based on my behavior. I don’t remember if bookstores were struggling like this back in the 90s, when they started disappearing from malls. I know the big killer of bookstores was most likely the Internet and Amazon. But I do know that the bookstores didn’t visibly change much since the coffee shop/bookstore first started appearing, except all the bookstores started adding their own websites, and e-readers appeared.

Again, judging from my own behavior, if bookstores would start putting the bookstores back in the malls, it would become a weekly stop when my daughter and make our weekly fun trip to the mall. And since sometimes Daddy comes along on a Friday or Saturday night, that would be up to two trips in a week. And it would be SO EASY to buy a paperback and a chapbook during every trip.

Nowadays? I visit the bookstore maybe once a month. When I want a book between trips, I either wait, or I download it to my Nook. (But not through Barnes & Noble’s website, because I find their process too buyer-unfriendly.) But maybe I’m just pining for the good old days. The extensive book sections in Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart show that the impulse shopper will still buy books. They just need more opportunities.

What about you? Would you visit bookstores more often if they were in more convenient places like malls? Or do you just buy everything online, regardless?

20 thoughts on “I Miss Bookstores in Malls – Redux

  1. Luckily, the two malls closest to me still have bookstores–and I do make a point of popping in whenever I need to visit one of the other stores. I don’t always come away with something, but it’s a distinct possibility.

    Both the local(ish) stores are larger, though. One, a chain, has a Starbucks. The other, an independant, has a cafe that’s a destination in and of itself. My friends and I often go there before we catch a movie (a cinema being another of the mall’s attractions), and of course we have to have just a quick browse after we eat. At least one of us usually buys something.

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    • Sounds like you have the best of both worlds! It is difficult to enter a bookstore without buying something.

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  2. I remember as a tween (before that word was a word) going to the closet-sized B Dalton, babysitting money in hand, to buy as many Sunfire romances as I could afford. I have fond memories of that little bookstore, and of those books!
    Nowadays, my family plans trips to Half-Price books, we scrounge the shelves for treasures, and everyone from husband on down to my 3 year old, finds something to make them happy. I hardly ever visit a B&N or Borders, simply because there is so much other “junk” to wade through. Occasionally, when a book came out from an author on my auto-buy list, I’d make the trip – but like you said, I went in there to buy a book and leave, not sip coffee or shop for the odd chotckie.

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    • I still tend to buy fiction at the bookstore, and nonfiction at Amazon. When I buy nonfiction, it’s usually for a very specific title. And it’s easier to find at Amazon. However, if a title has been in print for a while and I suspect that the bookstore no longer stocks them, I go to Amazon even for fiction.

      As for the junk in the bookstores, I suppose someone must buy them. I just walk on by.

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  3. Our mall has a B&N. I don’t really hang around the coffee shop but I love to take a new book down to the mall’s center where there’s an Anne’s Pretzel stand, sit on the edge of the fountain and read while I eat my pretzel.

    While I was going to FCC, I’d often hit the mall on my way home from class. Now that I’ve graduated I have to drive out of my way to get there so I don’t browse the bookstore nearly as often -just if I know something by a particular author is coming out.

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    • The mall across the river had a Books-a-Million last time I went there. But there’s another BAM much closer to me–and right across the street from a B&N. Two birds and all. 🙂

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  4. Our mall also has a B&N. When I first moved here, the mall had a Waldenbooks and a local bookstore. The local bookstore moved to the downtown area, proceeded to start sucking (seriously, they would curl their nostrils at you if you bought genre fiction), and a few years later went out of business. The Waldenbooks stuck around for about a year after the advent of the B&N and then was gone. But I genuinely do like the B&N.

    I also have a favorite indie bookstore, and sadly I don’t go there as much as I used to; I used to work right next door to it but quit that job. So now I have a sad tendency to forget that part of town even exists, but I try to remember to go buy books whenever I can.

    When I was a kid, my “childhood mall” had both a Waldenbooks and a B.Dalton.

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    • There was an otherwise excellent bookstore I used to go to that had the same attitude toward genre fiction, but they DID stock it. It was just in the basement. Literally. I think–during my literary phase–I once went up to the counter and purchased James Joyce at the same time I bought something like Anne McCaffrey. It was fun. I never finished that JJ novel. Too literary even for my literary phase.

      Did I finish the McCaffrey? Of COURSE!

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  5. When I lived in Los Angeles, two of the three malls I went to regularly did have bookstores. There was also a huge Borders in a popular area in Hollywood. I haven’t been able to find out if that one got axed in the first wave of Borders closings (the initial rumor was no, followed by yes), but I guess it doesn’t matter now since all the Borders are going.

    I tend to go to malls for the bookstore, so for me it’s not a big deal if the bookstore isn’t in the mall. I’ll still go. Distance is a factor, though. Now I live farther from all the bookstores than I did in LA.

    I’m just waiting with a sense of sadness for all the brick-and-mortar bookstores to vanish. 😦

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    • I’m still lucky enough to have two excellent bookstores within 5-7 miles, and a wonderful used bookstore on the other side of town.

      Maybe I’m an optimist, but I really don’t think that will happen. I hope the industry is smart enough to continue to adapt.

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  6. The mall closest to me is a Borders bookstore now in sell-off mode. Oddly, though their sale sign reads up to 40% off, most of the items are about 10% off. Not sure how that’s going to work out.

    I’m not looking forward to them leaving. The only other bookstore I like is in the next city. What a disappointment.

    I, too, hope we don’t end up with all the brick and mortars disappearing.

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    • The borders near me already closed. The sale prices will probably get cheaper, unless they start returning books to publishers.

      We DO still have record stores–er, music stores–so I still have hope!

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  7. Like Drama Mama, I have fond memories of going to mall bookstores with my allowance money and later my minimum wage fast food cashier pay. I devoured the Sunfires, too.

    But when I go to the mall now, I don’t miss those stores. Of course, it helps that I live ten minutes from a mall (teen me would’ve thought grown-up me lived in HEAVEN), so shopping there is no longer an afternoon outing, but a specific quick mission to a specific store or two for the kinds of things I’d rather not order online because I want to try them on–pretty much just shoes, bras, and jeans.

    I buy at least 95% of my books from Amazon now, and always choose e-books if available. I like that they don’t add more clutter to my chaotic life and that I can read a book on my phone if I find myself with reading time while away from my Kindle. I love the 24/7 convenience and near-infinite selection to cater to my quirky tastes.

    So I don’t miss the mall bookstores for myself, but it does make me sad that all anyone who doesn’t visit B&N or haunt Amazon is going to see in a world without them is the narrow range of bestsellers available at Target, Walmart, Costco, and the like.

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    • The loss of the incidental or impulse shopper is exactly what I’m talking about. By making a bookstore a destination in of itself, I think they cut out a lot of their own market share. WalMart and Costco wouldn’t stock books if those impulse buyers didn’t buy them.

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      • Bookstores should install their own E-reader system where if you buy books at the physical store they won’t charge you for shipping and have something similar to frequent flyer miles if you buy books a lot.

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  8. I was shocked when I inquired at the mall’s Customer Service desk to ask where to find a bookstore and they said they did not have one! The thing that concerns me is that the mall is a big hangout for teenagers. The bookstore is/was a place they could discover new interests and learn new things. It’s so sad to me.

    I guess and hope they can discover the same kind of interesting content in e-books. But what about gorgeous picture books on nature – like the amazing feats of ants or beautiful birds of the world??

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    • I know! Finally someone who has figured it out! Maybe book stores should have their own E-reader where if they buy it in the physical store the store will pay for shipping so it will draw people in who may buy something on the spare of the moment verses waiting to do it at home.

      They should also make it so you can preview books on their E-readers and get rid of physical books except for the kids sections and travel section since kids books are usually light and not in-depth.

      I grew up reading Dr Seuss books at the malls since I was two and it was a major boost to my reading skills later in life. I actually taught myself to read when Dad was at work.

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  9. My parents bought a lot of Dr Seuss books by going to the malls and I grew up reading them since I was two! 🙂

    Here in Salem Oregon all the book stores are gone in the malls except Clackamas mall in Portland which is super packed because it has several stores worth of people in it so we don’t go there anymore.

    Bookstores were always our spot where Dad and I waited for Mom to shop after walking around to get exercise when it was cold and rainy. It was always nice seeing a brightly lit bookstore after going up and down the corridors and needing to rest.

    Also there is no decent electronics stores either. Software.Etc was fun to go to and they had Babbages but those are mostly GameStops now which only do Playstation and Hex Box………I mean XBox stuff.

    There is a Mac store that you can demo how Macintosh computers work.

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