Recently, the owner of a long-standing local book store announced the store's closure. He blames the onslaught of online book retailers like Amazon, the insurgence of large, warehouse-style chain stores like Chapters, and the new-ish ebook format for killing his business.
"We could continue to fight," he said. "But in the end we stand no chance."
This got me thinking. It makes me sad that this man, his family, and the nineteen employees who made a living (or perhaps a portion of a living if they worked part-time) at his book store now have to search elsewhere for their income. This particular store was a touchstone in this city for many years and technology, whether better or not (that can be debated) has created a new world for them. A world in which the book store as we know it will be gone. Simply gone.
My personal belief is that a quality ebook reader plus the equally-usable infrastructure for buying and downloading the content which populates the reader can actually be a better fit for most book readers, but there is still a sadness at the passing of this torch. It's not unlike a modern-day version of the Pony Express being killed by the invention of the telegraph machine. I like being able to access four million books at my fingertips instead of only twenty-five thousand, the one I really want being on back-order for up to eight weeks while it ships from Albuquerque. But it's still hard to watch those ponies put out to pasture after they ran so fast and so hard in their prime. What beautiful, lithesome creatures.
The ebook seems to be doing the same thing to the traditional book binding and selling business as downloaded music has been doing to the Sam The Record Man and other brick and mortar record shops. I can only wonder if wider bandwidths and the increasing availability of high definition video will mark the beginning of the end for movie theatres and cable TV providers. What do you think?