Friday, March 21, 2008

I Miss Bookstores in Malls

I saw this article on PubRants about Border's financial woes, and it got me to thinking how much I miss bookstores in malls.

Back in the 80s and the early 90s, whenever we went to the mall, we had a very specific routine. We'd hit, at the very least, three types of stores. The computer store, the record store and the book store. (Yes, the record store. I come from the stone age. This was during a time when record stores would also routinely stock a selection of sheet music. Those days are gone.)

Anyway, at the book store, I usually picked up a paperback and would sit reading on a bench outside the bookstore waiting while my husband perused the war books. (My husband reads two types of books: war books and true crime.) There was a Waldenbooks and a B. Dalton. We always hit them both. Sure, the stores were small. But they were crammed with books. Waldenbooks always organized their classics better than B. Dalton, so I'd go to Waldenbooks to pick up whatever classic I was hankering to read, and to B. Dalton to pick up anything that Waldenbooks didn't stock.

When Waldenbooks opened up a standalone bookstore on Dobson Road, I wondered what they were thinking. Did this mean that they were closing the bookstore in Fiesta Mall? Sure enough, that bookstore soon closed. Sure, the bookstore on Dobson Road was about twice as big as the one in the mall. But there was nowhere to sit and read.

When Borders opened up on Southern Avenue, it was huge in comparison to that Waldenbooks. Then Barnes and Noble came along and threw in a coffee shop. Great. I don't drink coffee. At least there were places to sit.

But you know, I didn't get to the bookstore quite as often as when they had it in the mall. Nowadays, in order to recreate my trips of yesteryear, I have to drive to CompUSA, then drive to Borders, Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million, then to the music store (which doesn't stock sheet music--go figure). Sure, I can go to BestBuy and get CDs there, but no books. I suppose I can also get CDs at the bookstore, but they never stock computer parts or software.

As for the mall? I hardly ever go there. Sure they have music stores, but since I'm already going to BestBuy or the book store, I don't need to go to the mall. To get sheet music, I have to go to a different type of music store. The only reason I go to the mall anymore are for air-conditioned walks, and to take my daughter to the Disney Store (and to get a cookie).

It's all terribly inconvenient. No wonder book sales are down.

16 comments:

Neth said...

I didn't realize that your in AZ. I live down in Chandler. I've been in the Tempe/Chandler area for about 10 years and have seen the Fiesta Mall got 'ghetto' in that time - I live near Chandler Fashion Square which has B&N in it. Of coure my favorite bookstore is Changing Hands even though their SFF section is a lot less than desired.

But in a month I'm escaping the Valley for the cooler climate of Flagstaff - I can't wait.

Tia Nevitt said...

LOL! I was wondering if anyone would recognize those street names!

I actually don't live there anymore, but I lived there during the "golden days" in question. I know of all the places you mentioned, and I lived in Chandler, Mesa and on Williams AFB. I now live on the east coast.

Changing Hands is a wonderful bookstore. Is Bookman's still open?

Flagstaff was great, but our favorite haunt outside the valley was Payson and the Rim.

Neth said...

Bookman's is still open - it's great for used books (and has an awesome exchange program, not to mention a location in Flagstaff).

Raven said...

I remember walking to the mall after school when I was a teenager and hitting three bookstores: B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and Crown Books. A number of our newer malls here have a B&N or Borders; maybe they're being reincorporated? One mall has a Borders across the street from it. I go to the Borders a lot more often than I go to the mall.

I hope Borders doesn't close, because for some totally subjective reason to do with mood and stock I prefer them to B&N. I also hope we don't eventually end up with only online bookstores, because nothing beats the feeling of flipping through a book in the store before you buy it, plus you can't browse the same way online.

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow; three bookstores in the mall! We never had that many. The mall across the river from us has a Books-a-Million.

I almost NEVER buy fiction online. Nonfiction? All the time. I think that's for the same reason you cited; I like being able to flip through the books. I agree with you about online-only bookstores. Maybe bookstore demand from people like us will keep enough of them open.

superwench83 said...

We still have a Waldenbooks at my mall, but it seems to be rare these days. There's a Borders right across the street, which likely does more business, but since this mall is such a busy one, the Waldenbooks gets enough traffic to stay open. How much longer, though? Especially since Waldenbooks is owned by Borders. Hmm.

Scott Marlowe said...

I remember those days as well. In California (Sunnyvale, specifically), our house was just a short bike ride from a mall that had those stores you mention where I'd make similar stops (throw in a visit to the pet store inside the mall, too).

Nowadays, though, I very rarely if ever go inside a bookstore. Sometimes Half Priced Books, but I buy all of my books online, usually at Amazon. For me, it's the convenience, prices, and the ability to read reviews.

While I'm sad to see Borders in trouble b/c of the resulting reduction in consumer choices, I really won't miss it. I like B&N better, anyway, cause they have Starbucks inside.

Tia Nevitt said...

I'm still a bookstore kind of girl. The only time I buy fiction online is when I don't see a particular title in the stores.

Oddly enough, even though I'm highly computer literate (c++ programmer, UNIX proficient, etc), I do very few purchases on line.

Sara J. said...

I miss having a local bookstore in my area more than bookstores in malls. All the stores closed out in my end of town because of the bigbox that came calling, but later shut down. So it's been more than 5 years without a bookstore in less than a 15 minute drive, which is certainly possible in any other quadrant in my city...

I'm rather bitter about it all, but I do still enjoy the McNally Robinsons that have popped up... they're a local independent chain of stores and more community involved, but still bigbox-like in size.

Kimber An said...

Whenever I got lost as a kid, my mom always knew where to find me - the bookstore.

Tia Nevitt said...

Sara, I feel for you. No bookstores? At least we have three big-box stores in a 10 mile radius.

Kimber, I bet you sometimes got "lost" on purpose!

Robert said...

It seems like every time I went to a mall when I was a kid there was always a bookstore or two and I haven't seen anything different with the malls that we frequent nowadays. It's not as big a deal for me now though. Personally, the majority of books I buy are online because when I do go to a bookstore, they almost always fail to have the titles I want. It's pretty annoying actually...

Kimberly Swan said...

We no longer have the bookstores in our local mall either. B&N is probably the closest one to me, and on a good day it's about 45 minutes to get there. More often than not I order online. :(

Tia Nevitt said...

Now that's just sad. My required me to live in a good-sized town, so I have three large bookstores within ten miles, plus the most fabulous used bookstore I've ever seen within 20.

V said...

I lived in AZ most in the late 80s and most of the 90s. I lived by Paradise Velley Mall so that's where I went to all my book shopping. Off course accross the street (on Cactus?) they opened up a huge Bookstar and I went there for a while. I know what you're saying about getting books at the malls cause it was so convenient. But now I live in New York. In Queens to be precise and there are NO bookstores here at all!!! You'd have to go into Manhattan to hit any of the B&N or Borders.

Tia Nevitt said...

Wow. I never thought that a city could be TOO BIG for bookstores!