Thingish Things

It’s Creative Destruction, But It Still Stings

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Jul• 19•11

Borders Books will shut its doors this summer, casting additional doubt on the long-term survival of the hard copy book industry. Digital books, quickly and decisively, are relegating obsolete the entire brick-and-mortar book selling   model. It is very possible that, in not too many years, bookstores will be considered novelty shops, not unlike today’s smattering of record stores.   

This trend began before E-books. The grand booksellers in New York — the ones that once adorned Fifth Avenue, Charles Scribner and Sons and Doubleday among them; places that bubbled over with excitement at the arrival of the new Hemingway or Cheever  — were shuttered more than a decade ago because they couldn’t keep up with big-box stores like Barnes & Noble and, yes, Borders.  The film “You’ve Got Mail” depicting that dynamic seems quaint today.

Hard-copy book readers protest that they never will put down the real thing. But who is to say manufacturers will continue printing them? It is an expensive process that requires a large volume of sales to be economically viable. Sure you’ll be able to read what’s already been bound, but will anyone bind new books? 

In April, the last typewriter manufacturer in the world shut its doors. That was a sad day, but it had to happen. I’m just glad I get to tell my kids that I grew up hammering away at one of the things, just as they will be able to tell their children what it was like to walk the shelves of the book store. 

Time marches on…

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