Irene Sege's article in The Boston Globe is, in my opinion, pretty lazy reporting. It takes an anecdote that may or may not be meaningful and then cherry picks data to create a story around it that more or less follows conventional wisdom vis a vis indy versus corporate bookstores.
Here's the lede, where we get the anecdote:
I don't like the implication here that a closed bookstore is a good thing, if it's a corporate bookstore. Sege reports that the Barnes & Noble has been in Brookline for 16 years, meaning that it was far from a corporate interloper and certainly had enough time to become an important part of the community's fabric.
Nor do I like the idea that Brookline, MA, a community of 60,000, that sits a few miles outside of Boston, and that is heavily college educated, can't support more than one bookstore.
From this heavily loaded lede, we then get a few vague quotes engineered to support it:
"There's a standard line that the independents are collapsing and
they're all going to disappear soon. I think that's a little dated,"
said John Mutter, editor of the online newsletter Shelf Awareness.
"Independent booksellers in the United States, while things are very
tough and even tougher in the current environment, have figured out a
model that works," said Oren Teicher, who heads the American
When we do finally get some substantive information near the story's end, it's an apples-to-oranges comparison:
businesses. The Census Bureau reports that bookstore sales in January
2009 were virtually unchanged from January 2008, compared with an 8
percent decline in total retail and food service sales. The big chains
did not share that good news. Barnes & Noble's store sales dropped
5 percent last quarter compared with 2007, capping a year that CEO
Steve Riggio called "the most challenging year that the company and the
industry have ever experienced." Fourth-quarter sales in Borders
superstores plunged 15 percent, and the chain closed 112 of its
Waldenbooks locations in 2008.
Sales "in bookstores of all types" is a very different than sales in, for instance, Borders, whose problems have been attributed in no small part to something that has nothing to do with booksales: the company's disastrous choice to embrace CDs right before iTunes and other music downloading services become incredibly popular.
All this isn't to say that I don't appreciate indy bookstores and that I don't treasure the ones that exist in my community; rather, the continued parroting of this tired "corporate vs indy" storyline prevents deeper thinking about how exactly both models can coexist (I certainly think each brings something unique to the table).
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