Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fearing Bookless Hoboken

The Barnes and Noble in Hoboken sure has a lot more Halloween decorations than the N.Y. stores I thought as I got to the entrance. I figured it was because they had such a large children’s book department. Used to be lots of parents and toddlers in the place.

It was late afternoon, I was doing work calls by cell. I was in Hoboken, after a trip to mom. I delayed the PATH return home so I could keep reception. There was a book I wanted to buy, so I meandered towards the Barnes and Noble.

I walked in, no book in sight. Halloween merchandise as far as the eye could see.

I stepped outside to check that I was in the right store. Yes, the CVS and gym was still there, still part of this urban mini-strip mall where I remembered the B&N in Hoboken to be.

I went back in the store. I asked the clerk, didn’t this used to be a Barnes & Noble?


When did it close?

March. March... March... shortly after the closing of the last bookstore in Jersey City, the B&N related chain B. Dalton’s. I blogged about that closing here and I swear I was told the Hoboken one would remain open.

The closest Barnes and Nobles now to Jersey City is in Edgewater—without crossing the river that is. I find that sad. Of course you could go to another bookstore. Oh that’s right, you can’t. Except for bookstores associated with our local colleges, all the book stores are gone.

I remember when the Barnes & Noble came to Hoboken. Backwater Books was this fabulous independent bookstore in Hoboken and they soon closed, claiming they could not compete against this big store. This scenario was repeated throughout the United States. Independents were gone, Barnes and Nobles stayed. We adjusted and why not, Barnes and Nobles are excellent.

Barnes & Nobel became the only game in town. With few exceptions (Strand, St. Marks), the only game even in New York town.

Oh, there’s a some Borders in NYC, but that company is bankrupt and on their way out.
So is Barnes and Noble, actually.

So maybe everybody has a Kindle or Nook or whatever. Who needs to browse books, who really needs to read paper. Hey, I have a literary website so it’s not like I’m opposed to the concept. I just am opposed to the lack of options, but I can’t take pleasure in the slow demise of Barnes & Noble, no matter how much cosmic justice there seems to be—the goliath falling, replaced by another goliath, except this goliath has nothing to do with paper. Get a mobile device and you won’t have to stay home to shop. Just no more going into a store to browse for everyone.

Those devices are great, but let’s face it, less bookstores mean less reading and less reading means more stupidity. Grab your seat at the tea party. Feed your ego and starve democracy!

This location being a seasonal store is not a good sign for this little nook of Hoboken. It means there were no other stores or businesses to take rent it out. Like Christmas decoration stores—which I am betting will replace this on All Saints Day. Nothing wrong with that, but it means that the community that tends to form around retail development will no longer coalesce. Hoboken’s B&N had a large children’s book department; always parents and kids in there. Where do they go now. Of course maybe it will turn into a Pawn Shop or Asian Spa for Gentlemen or maybe an upscale Crack Den. Who knows what turn this recession may take next.

Halloween may be about the horror masquerade, but now that both Jersey City and Hoboken have no bookstore, what comes next is what truly should be feared.

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