amazonIt’s easy to get caught up in the ‘Amazon is the bad guy’ rhetoric, and blame Bezos and Co for ruining all the bookstores. But this NY Times article is a useful reminder that sometimes, the explanation is a lot simpler than we might think. The article highlights the sky-high rents in Manhattan, which are forcing even chain bookstores out of the market:

“In December, Christine Onorati, the co-owner of Word bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, opened a second store in Jersey City. Ms. Onorati said she never looked seriously at Manhattan because the rents were so unaffordable. Even with lower rents in Jersey City, she opened a cafe within the bookstore that serves pastries and Stumptown coffee as an additional source of revenue, something she had previously vowed she would never do.”

And it’s not just Manhattan either; this news story from earlier this month blames the closing of Toronto’s beloved The Cookbook Store only in part on ‘online competition’ and cites extreme weather, road construction and the sale of the building for condo development as additional reasons for the closure.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, people. It’s not always about Amazon being the bad guy!

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  1. Of course it is about Amazon for not having to pay those high rents or the often higher wages of big city retail staff. And yes, that doesn’t mean Amazon remains the bad guy. It’s just that Amazon is not suffering from those changes.

    I’m still wondering why the B&N megastore disappeared from Seattle’s University Village. Every time I went in there it was crowded with people. It’s hard to believe they were all browsing before buying from Amazon.

  2. I think running a bookstore was always hard, because people so often walk through the door looking for one specific book and if they don’t find it, they don’t buy something else instead. Imagine a clothing store having to carry hundreds or even thousands of types of blouses or shirts?

    Big chain stores had a space advantage over small stores, but they had to sell a lot more because they had bigger rents to pay and higher staffing costs. Online warehouses have an even bigger advantage over both, as do digital bookstores. But I think in the long run, small indie stores have better long term survival chances than chain stores because they provide things you can’t get online– personal service, cozy environment, author events, and a book-loving staff who can suggest books to customers.

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