Ever since Chase Pitkin hardware store closed it's doors and pulled out of Canandaigua, I've been hoping and praying that a book store, such as Borders or Barnes and Noble, would come in to the new plaza redesigned to accommodate box stores. We did get a Michael's and Bed, Bath and Beyond, but no book store. The closest book store is the Borders up in Victor 15 miles away. Canandaigua does have it's small mom and pop book stores downtown, and they do a great job catering to the avid fiction novel reader with a great trade-in program. However, as more of a reader of business, inspiration and photography books, my needs surpass those of the local book shop.
I received a sad e-mail last night. It was a goodbye letter from Borders. They are reluctantly closing their doors after years of struggling through a changing economy. Both e-readers and iBooks, as well as internet giant Amazon.com have put the nail in the Borders' coffin. I admit, I have dabbled with iBooks on my iPad and I have ordered dozens of books and other products from Amazon on a regular basis. However there is something so satisfying about going in to a huge book store filled with tens of thousands of books where you can touch them, smell them, feel the thickness of the pages and just plain bond with them.
In 1998, while I was working at the Daily Messenger in Canandaigua, a sales rep from Canon came in to the dark room to show me a new digital camera they just came out with. It was relatively inexpensive at only a few thousand dollars for a full one megapixel camera. Compared to the new digital SLRs from Kodak that cost $10,000 this was cheap. I had no interest though. How could this puny little camera compete with the quality of film, and in fact, it couldn't. However times changed rapidly and by 2003 I was full digital at the studio and sold my Bronica medium format equipment that year for $2,500. I could buy it all back now for about $25. I had a choice back then, adapt or be left behind. Not only did I adapt, the switch launched my business faster than I ever could have imagined.
The book industry is now seeing a similar revolution as the photography industry did 10 years ago. As much as I like the tactile experience of a book before I buy it, I understand the evolution. I also liked the feel of film and the magic of seeing an image appear in the tray of developer in the dark room, but there would have been nothing I could do to stop the digital revolution, so I traded in the dark room for Photoshop and hung on for the ride. Unfortunately, Borders didn't fair so well assuming there would be enough people like me who want the feel of the book.
What's on the horizon for the book industry? Will there be resurgence of the Main Street America book store who is less effected by the national economy? Borders and the other big box stores where the fire breathing dragons that burned down Main Street. The dragon is dying. As sad as I am to see it go, if it will breathe life in to more mom and pop book stores it will have been a blessing in disguise.