I read today: "Borders book retail chain suffers sales fall." This reminded me of my last visit to the local "Borders."
The store seemed empty, so many shelves had been removed from it. There were not many customers either. The shelves that remained were full of books that I could have bought anywhere else. But most of the books I would not have bought in any case. Any section that would have interested me was no longer there. Hardly any "Philosophy," but lots of crappy "Metaphysics" and an excess of "Religion" and "Christianity."
I had long given up of finding any book by Sebald, though two years ago they actually stocked some of his novels. I asked myself what I was doing in this place and vowed not to come back.
In the article they blamed Electronic Books for the downturn. I think they have next to nothing to do with the real problem. Borders' sales are falling because they are not stocking enough books of the kind that people like me were buying and would continue to buy. If people find no reason to go to the bookstores, they will a fortiori not buy anything there. I am not sure that this downward spiral can be reversed.
It is not that Barnes and Nobles is any better. When I visited last week the University Bookstore of Boston University, I saw that the Fiction section was downsized, and that "Romance" took up the first row. "Philosophy " was cut in half, "Spirituality" doubled. This is another bookstore I will avoid from now on. Luckily, Cambridge and Harvard Books is not that far away.