Am I the reason bookstores are closing?

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bookstore shelf

It’s been a bad year for bookstores in Toronto. Several have closed, including a few of my favourites. And while news of fewer bookstores in my city will always make me sad, I’ve had to accept that I’m part of the reason those stores are closing, because I buy almost all my books online.

I know, I know. You think I’m an awful person, right? But let me try to explain.

I’d say that I buy more books than the average person, and while it’s a nice idea that I would buy all those books at full price from my local independent bookstore, I don’t. I get them from the library or buy them online for cheaper, which usually means that I buy more books. Then those books get delivered right to my door, which, for someone like me, feels a little bit like Christmas.

I’ve heard the argument that bookstores are about more than books, they’re about relationships. But what if you don’t want to build relationships? I don’t want recommendations from staff on what to read because I a) normally know exactly what I want, and b) use Goodreads and online reviews to get ideas on what to read next. Reading is a pretty personal experience for me and buying books is one of my all-time favourite activities, so I like going online and buying the books that I want to read without having to engage in small talk about it. I’m an introverted book nerd, so sue me.

I realize that might make me sound like an awful person to some, but I always wonder whether the people who judge me for buying my (many, many) books online actually buy books from the stores they are so sad to see go. The other day as I stood in a very long line at a closing bookstore that was having a 50% off sale, I realized that if all the people in that store were that interested in books every day then maybe the store wouldn’t be closing at all. And maybe that store wouldn’t have to fill half of its square footage with pillows and mugs, things that go very well with reading but don’t really do much for the book industry as a whole.

I’d rather see a bookstore on the corner than yet another cupcake place, but if more people are buying cupcakes than books can I really blame that bakery for taking over? Despite closing bookstores, I stand by my decision to buy most of my books online. And I encourage you to get your books in whatever way you can. No judgement.

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