Mari Ness (mariness) wrote,
Mari Ness
mariness

A place without bookstores

This month, the local Barnes and Noble - a place that, in the winter, I could reach via my electric trike - closed down. According to the employees, this particular Barnes and Noble was doing well - better, they said proudly, than the Barnes and Noble up in Altamonte Springs (which is still open). And presumably less well than the Barnes and Noble down in the Dr. Philips area. The store had originally benefited from being only the second major bookstore in the west Orange area. Once the Borders in Ocoee closed, it was the only major bookstore in the west Orange area, benefiting from the expansion of Winter Garden and Clermont and the quiet wealth of Windermere. The other bookstores are all twenty, thirty minutes away at best from this area - a Books-A-Million up in Leesburg, which is more or less the equivalent of the moon for me, and another one in Altamonte Springs - less moon like, but four buses is a bit much - and the previously mentioned Barnes and Noble. Some customers said they would trek there anyway. Others said they would use Amazon. No one, despite hopeful hints from Barnes and Noble employees, said they would use the Barnes and Noble website.

(This is more about physical bookstores than websites, but I'll say it here anyway: Barnes and Noble, speaking as someone with a Nook who really wants you to succeed, your website is very difficult to search/browse through, both online and through the Nook, and Amazon's recommended feature leaves yours far behind. Kobo is sending me better, more targeted emails and I don't even visit their site. I'd work on this.)

Apparently, the company behind Forever 21 agreed to pay three times the rent that Barnes and Noble is paying. The outdoor mall management loved this idea. Barnes and Noble balked at a rent increase, and here we are.

I'm not sure what, if any, effect this will have on that particular mall, which is an outdoor mall in one section and a line of huge, big block stores like Lowe's and Target in another section. Bitter Barnes and Noble employees claimed that the idea was to bring in more teenagers with the Forever 21. The place does seem rather short of teenagers, but then again, I'm usually there on weekday mornings in winter, not a peak teenager shopping time, so it's entirely possible that in the afternoons, teenagers pop up everywhere, eager to spend. Or not. What seems to be more of a concern, specifically to the employees of the Bath and Body Works, was that Barnes and Noble tended to draw a relatively upscale crowd that was happy to wander over to Bath and Body Works and spend money there. Also, this now means that the Bath and Body Works people either have to cross a large, and, in the summer, painfully hot parking lot, or a six lane street in order to reach Starbucks, which means, they guess, they're stuck with Panera which isn't as good for coffee.

Which brings up another slight issue: that area did have three - count them, three - Starbucks in a very limited location: the one at Barnes and Noble, the one at Target, and the actual Starbucks just across the road. I wondered how sustainable that was.

Then again, this complex is located directly north of a very well to do area, and south of a patchily well to do area - some streets are very well to do indeed, and then there's my street, which isn't, but can afford the occasional stop at Starbucks, and east of a solid, rapidly growing middle class suburb. Who knows.

Anyway, everyone agreed that the Barnes and Noble was an anchor store that brought in customers, and was a place for people to meet, and study, and talk books, and this sucks, and the hospital going up across the street is not a substitute for any of this.

For me, this is personally painful for another reason: with the exception of my first months here, before I got my electric trike of awesomeness, it's the first time since I was 11 or so that I have not been able to get to a bookstore on my own. Granted, reaching one in a Connecticut winter was nearly impossible on a bicycle, but the bookstore was there, and I knew it was there, providing a certain comfort. Afterwards, I could always reach one. Two decent ones easily available my first year of college; three my last three years. Several in South Florida; several in Tokyo (overpriced English language bookstores, but definitely there. You can buy anything in Tokyo if you have the money.) The all too short lived Here Be Dragons bookstore, and this Barnes and Noble.

And now, without a ride, nothing but online bookstores. Which, for all of my severe addiction to the Orange County Library's ebook selection, just isn't the same. You can't feel a book on a website. I don't get the same sense of reassurance. Of home. Of books.

I'm going to be resenting this new Forever 21 for awhile.
Tags: barnes and noble, bookstores, disability, nostalgia
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