Barnes and Noble has announced it is reducing the number of stores by nearly 1/3 over the next ten years. In this digital age, we’ve seen this before. Once upon a time, when we wanted to buy a record or cassette or even one of those new CDs, we had to go to a record store. When records and cassettes went the way of the 8-track and the dodo bird, the number of record stores began to dwindle. You could still buy CDs at new places like Best Buy or the ever-expanding Wal-Mart. Soon, everyone was discovering Amazon and how convenient it was to buy music you could never find locally. Then, along came that cool little idea called iTunes. Now, virtually everyone owns an iPod or MP3 device and our music library is essentially all digital.
We are now witnessing the same occur to video stores and bookstores almost simultaneously. Well, honestly, most video stores are already gone. Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery storefronts are either vacant or remodeled for the next tenant. Locally, we still have a very nice video chain called Family Video. They are surprisingly busy but their selection is generally limited to recent DVD releases and those movies that are still in print. But it is nice to occasionally visit and walk around, remembering what it was like back in the glory days of VHS. My love and passion for movies dates back to childhood but my addiction to collecting movies dates back to 1988. It was that year that I worked at Duncan’s Movie Magic in Topeka. At the time, it was the largest video store in the Midwest. I fondly remember buying the very first pre-viewed videotapes they offered. Robocop and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off were added to a very small selection of store-bought titles like Creature From The Black Lagoon and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Now, slowly, we are moving towards streaming and digital collections. On one hand, it’s exciting to know movies are available instantaneously but there are still a lot of issues that need resolved. How often have you gone to Netflix to watch a movie only to realize it’s no longer available? And I miss not being able to have that DVD with cover art and extras in my grubby little hands. However, the next generation won’t miss it because to them, a movie will always be something they had digitally.
For bookstores, my local chains were B. Dalton and Waldenbooks. Those two stores, along with Camelot Music and Musicland, made going to the mall a real adventure. As time marched on, these are all gone now. The bookstores pushed out of business by the bigger Barnes and Noble and Borders. Then that little engine that could known as Amazon set its targets on them. First, Borders disappeared and now Barnes and Noble is taking that first step by closing 1/3 of its stores. It’s part of our digital world. Fewer members of the next generation are reading. A sad but realistic fact. Those who do are learning to do so online. Now, I love the Amazon Kindle. In fact, much more than I ever thought I would but it will never replace holding a book in my hand or the musty smell of an old treasure. Unfortunately, for the next generation, if they never experience the shopping around in a bookstore, they’ll never miss it in the first place.
I can immediately give you the titles of books and movies and CDs I never would have purchased had I not seen them on a shelf. However, I can also just as quickly share titles with you I bought online that I would never have seen in the store. Time marches on and the digital world we live in becomes more and more prevalent every day. I guess it’s time for me to get on my porch and start complaining about the young whippersnappers. However, as I wax nostalgic about the past, I’ll probably be listening to my iPod while I wait for the mailman to deliver a DVD from Amazon. As the saying goes, future waits for no man. We must embrace the future and I do so gladly. Just as long as I still have those musty old friends on my shelf, I can enjoy both worlds just fine.