Bookstore closing highlights shift in publishing industry

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article announced the closing of the Barnes & Noble store on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill by the end of the year. Mary Ellen Keating, a spokesperson for the company, called it “a business decision,” which, of course, explains absolutely nothing.

This leaves a major pedestrian shopping area without a traditional bookstore, though further down Murray is a used bookstore.

In April, included Borders on a list of 12 companies to disappear by 2010. The pressures from online booksellers like Amazon, as well as the new e-book readers available, were cited as reasons the company was dropping in earnings.

For traditional book advocates, this news spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

The Amazon Kindle and Sony Reader represent a major shift in the publishing industry. No longer are publishers bound to wait for printers, and no longer must they waste valuable money shipping books.

But what of those who will miss the tactile experience of flipping through pages, the smell of paper as it ages? Perhaps some would call them old-fashioned, but even among the first-years who grew up with the Internet ubiquitous there are some who enjoy reading a physical book.

More consumers, however, are turning toward the Internet to purchase their books. Shifting into the new economy, Barnes & Noble is closing smaller stores and even introducing its own e-reader — the Nook.

Some of us will miss the experience of walking into a bookstore, browsing the section for a title or cover that pops out at us, and reading enough of the first few pages to determine if it’s worth a read.

But this ever-shrinking population of consumers is being outpaced by the voluminous crowds shirking the terrifying outside world in favor of the ease of online shopping.

As the world turns, the pages stop turning.