Bob Batch: One for the books

The editor of the paper called me the other day with breaking news. She wanted me to write something about the Barnes & Noble in town closing!

Well, I really wasn’t sure if I was supposed to try to rally everyone to occupy Barnes & Noble to change their mind, or bid a sad farewell to one of Edgewater’s recent landmarks.

Bob Batch

Bob Batch

Actually, there’s a part of me, which must be suppressed, that immediately reacted to the news by imaging the going out of business sale. I have always been a borderline book hoarder, now in recovery, who thrills at the thought of clearance priced books of all kinds. Unfortunately, I’ve got no space left to keep anymore books purchased just because they were a bargain.

That aside, I drifted back to some of my fond memories of the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Edgewater Commons.

The place I logged the most time in the store was ‘The Kid’s Corner’. Not so much with books, but at the ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ table. My nephew and my own kids were all fanatics for Thomas when they were little. While my wife and her sister would hunt through T. J. Maxx or Bed Bath & Beyond, the kids and I would spend hours playing with the display trains. This, of course, would inevitably lead to us buying one or more of the many character pieces in the Thomas collection which includes wooden tracks, a round house, signals, and anything you could possibly imagine remotely connected to railroads.

As you might guess, along with too many books, we have more Thomas the tank engine trains and accessories than can be contained in a small museum.

I suppose a lot of people have fond memories of lounging around Barnes & Noble for hours reading all sorts of books and magazines while downing Starbucks coffee in the Café. Those were the lucky people who came early in the morning to get a seat and spend the whole day occupying tables that people like me couldn’t get.

Come to think of it, it’s amazing that Barnes & Noble has been able to stay in business for so long considering that they let everyone hang around reading books for free all these years. In retrospect they should really have charged for the time you spent in the store to cover the cost of all the frayed books and comfortable furniture they provided.

Of course I’m joking, because everyone knows that what is putting the large bookstores out of business is Amazon and those I Books. Only, when everyone knows something, it usually isn’t entirely true.

I know most people can’t even imagine a time when big corporate entities didn’t supply us with all the products we consume, but some of us remember when small independent stores sold things like books. They even sold all the items that big retailers sell now.

I don’t know how everyone became convinced that the only way to do business is by buying stuff made on the cheap in other countries, but I guess we’re just suckers for cheap prices. But those cheap prices have a hidden cost- they erode our overall economy and float all the profits to the top. Profit margins are all that matter, and while we are buying in bulk at the ‘Mega Mart’, the profit takers are downsizing the workforce and pay rates.

The business model of one giant book chain seems to have fallen apart because you can get books delivered directly to you for a cheap price, or download books and totally eliminate all that paper and stuff, but this does not factor in the element that made bookstores and the whole experience of shopping at one appealing

Maybe I’m hopelessly lost in the past, but I think we could still see small independently owned book stores return. In fact, with the cracks showing in the whole ‘Big International Economy’ we may see more independent local everything before long.

I have to admit I will miss the Barnes & Noble in town. Now that it’s gone I will have to read all the latest magazines over at Target for free, and they don’t supply any chairs at all.

There is one old concept that could greatly benefit from the demise of the big book chains. They used to call it the Public Library. They had all the books you could read, and they’d lend them to you if you didn’t want to sit around reading them there. All they need to do is throw a Starbucks in and people will be standing in line to get into the place.

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