Fifteen years ago, I thought Barnes and Noble was second only to Powell’s City of Books (incidentally, if you haven’t been to Powell’s, it’s pretty awesome). The nearest Barnes and Noble to me, back then, was 75 miles away and fuel for the drive there and back cost as much as two paperbacks. I loved the enormity of the store, the fact that they sold coffee, and that amid the spacious sprawl they provided places to sit. The community I lived in had no library back then and my other bookstore options at the time were grocery stores (the nearest mall’s Waldenbooks had vanished) and two used bookshops, one badly disorganized and the other with a cranky, sharp-tongued proprietor (you couldn’t buy sci-fi books there, “trade only!” was the snarling response the two times I tried). Naturally, I was an eager purchaser of books online once that became an option.
Today, I live in a city with a Barnes and Noble 15 miles away. It’s near other businesses I frequently shop at but I rarely find myself going into the bookstore I once happily covered 150 miles for. These days, I often want books that are a tad obscure or, at least, are too obscure for B&N to have them in stock. And, though I hate to sound petty, I’m tired of their membership spiel every time I’m at the checkout counter. (Admittedly, I didn’t mind that much until December when I was picking up a few last-minute holiday gifts. I tried to deflect the membership sales pitch by saying – and it was mostly true – that I was shopping for my spouse and that I didn’t have the green light to spend extra that day. After handing me my bag, which contained a pair of fingerless gloves for myself, the clerk snidely said “tell your husband I hope those gloves fit.” Since then, I’ve been even less inclined to shop there, especially considering I’ve got a dozen other options.)
Now that B&N is doing away with the Nook app, I wonder if things are going downhill for the mega-bookstore. I have mixed feelings about the potential disappearance of Barnes and Noble. I rarely shop there these days, and (obviously) will complain about their clerks, but I would be sad to see them disappear. I’ll confess, however, that if they did away with the Starbucks inside the store, I’d probably never go there again anyway.