A couple of weeks ago when the hubs and I were celebrating our anniversary, we walked into the Barnes & Noble store in Wichita. Big bookstores have always been something of a treat for us. All book stores are a treat, actually, but we have long had a tradition of browsing for hours on end at the biggest stores we can find whenever we are on vacation or just needing a date night. The B&N in Wichita has been a standard stop for our family for years. When the kids were little and we lived in western Kansas, we would always make a stop whether just passing through town or visiting for a few days. In fact, if we were in town multiple days, we’d spend time at the B&N the first day and then go down the street to Borders Bookstore (which closed a couple of years ago) on the second day.
Upon entering the store, something felt off. There were quite a few shoppers, but the balance was wrong. They were too close to the front of the store. There was too much conversation going on. I felt uncomfortable immediately, and it took me a moment to figure out what the problem was.
It was Rand who saw the sign first. The store was closing in just a few days. It also invited visitors to shop at the store’s other location on Rock Road. I was already familiar with the new store. I’d visited it early in the year when we were in town for a friend’s wedding. It’s big and it’s beautiful, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that it was intended to replace the original store.
My first thought was that maybe we’d find some sales that would be impossible to pass up. I’m always happy for an excuse to buy a new book, after all. So we decided to browse a bit and see what we could find. It was mostly empty bookshelves, however, and the deeper I got in the bookstore, the sadder I grew.
Entire portions of the store had already been dismantled. The children’s section was entirely bare. I was thankful to have another bookstore nearby to visit, but I couldn’t help but think I was getting a glimpse of the future. A future where there are no more books printed on lovely paper filling rows and rows of shelves; a future where people don’t read deeper than what will fit on the screen of their little handheld electronic devices.
I don’t really believe that last part is the direction we are headed. Not entirely. There are too many people, like me, who find joy in the written word. The form of the book is changing, however, and I do imagine there will be a day when we say, “Remember when books were printed on paper and you had to turn the pages…”