Bookstore Blues


The place that used to be Barnes and Noble in Georgetown is now Nike.  How ironic, since Barnes and Noble, in combination with now defunct Borders Books, killed off most of Washington DC’s independent bookstores.

There is one bookstore left in Georgetown,  Bridge Street Books which is independently owned.  Rumor has it that the owner has a trust fund.

There are no bookstores in downtown Washington.  Borders used to be on 14th and F Street, while Barnes Noble was on 12th street.  More irony, since they drove my favorite bookstores,  Olssons and Chapters, out of business.  Both stores were staffed by readers, not cashiers.

Their  shelves were well edited, which encouraged serendipitous discoveries. Olssons was better for non-fiction, especially if you were looking for history, biography, and politics. Chapters was the go-to store for literary fiction and poetry.

Bookstores are sociable places.  The years when I worked downtown, readings at Chapters (followed by wine and cheese) formed a major part of my social life. Free entertainment although I’d usually buy the book and would stand in line for the autograph.  I got to meet some of my writing heroes (James Salter, Grace Paley  and Laurie Colwin come to mind) and tell them thank you.

Two independent bookstores remain, Kramerbooks and Politics& Prose. Some cities have none.

I am disturbed by the vision of a bookless future, which seems to be just around the corner.

Cyberspace may be infinite but it is airless.

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2 Responses to Bookstore Blues

  1. easearle says:

    So true, Memphis! And I love your last line about cyberspace: airless indeed. We have a great indie bookstore here in MA, Newtonville Books and yes, it’s a warm and vibrant hangout for the literary minded. Cheers despite the bookstore blues– Elizabeth

  2. I love e-publishing and all it promises – but I, too, can’t imagine a city without bookstores.

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