In the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan plays indie bookseller Kathleen Kelly, whose business is forced to shutter after a giant chain bookstore Fox Books moves in next door, undoubtedly based on the encroaching success of Barnes & Noble stores across the country. But in 2018 the “theme park, multi-level, homogenize-the-world mochaccino land” of B&N is still struggling, so congrats to fictional character Kathleen Kelly for being right about everything!
The New York Times reports that sales continue to fall at the chain and that the company has no direction, with stock down over 60 percent in the last three years. In the last decade B&N has also closed more than 150 stores and operates just 633 today, and to change course B&N executive chairman Leonard Riggio might close the bigger stores and start opening up smaller ones in “highly trafficked” areas.
But you know who’s actually having a surprisingly good time in the book-selling business? Independent stores! The New York Times cites the American Booksellers Association counting 2,470 independent store locations in 2018, which is up from 1,651 from 2009. Membership at those stores is also up 5 percent for this year compared to the last. And their success is a credit to how uniquely curated indies have become for customers who, overwhelmed by the massive selections of an evil outlet like Amazon, continue to turn to local sellers for recommendations and insight.
In 2018: Kathleen Kelly rules, Joe Fox drools, Amazon is coming for us all, and nobody uses AOL anymore.