The Inevitable Demise Of All Bookstores?

This morning, I was enjoying my weekly Sunday routine of brunch, coffee, and errands, when I noticed on my way home that Oscar’s Art Books had a closing sign in the window.

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As a lover of anything surrounding books, bookstores, and reading, I was dismayed. I love spending afternoons browsing small, independent bookstores, coffee in hand, as well as large chains such as Chapters. I rarely browse or order books off of Amazon, and I do not particular enjoy using eBooks either. I decided to go inside and see for myself.

There were a few people milling about, and the sales associate was friendly and welcoming as usual. Oscar’s has been one of my favourite places to browse and purchase Moleskines- they have tons of different styles, and sometimes have 20% off sales, making them cheaper than what their giant neighbour Chapters sells them for. They also have a really neat selection of calendars, books for adults and children, and specialty large-format art books. I love the cozy environment and atmosphere, and browsing the quirky merchandise and new books.

They have been in business for 24 years, but they are definitely not the first or last independent bookstore in Vancouver to close. However, they are well-loved by the Vancouver community (especially the niche art community that they serve) and are one of the longest and last-standing bookstores.

Oscar’s official statement posted on its Facebook page reads:

“It’s been a great run, being on Broadway for 24 years, what a show! We’ve always moved with the times but unfortunately the Internet has taken over. Our sincerest thanks to all the great customers and the Vancouver art community who have supported Oscar’s as an independent bookstore throughout the years – thank you for your love and loyalty.”

Even though I am part of the millennial generation, I have a great love for books that time nor technology will ever take away. Bookstores are one of the few places that I feel at peace in, and can truly relax in. Growing up, the majority of my peers found it odd that I actually loved to read and write, and that I actually liked spending money on books rather than on more typical tween purchases.

I can spend hours just browsing new titles, reading (if permitted), looking at the cool merchandise, and I can seldom resist walking away without purchasing a book. I love the feeling of reading a physical book- unless I have to, I will always prefer to have a physical copy over an eBook version, even if it’s more expensive. I rarely, if ever, turn to Amazon to purchase my books.

I would gladly pay the extra costs to support these stores, but unfortunately, most people aren’t. Every time an independent bookstore closes, my heart aches. Most people are quick to blame large companies such as Chapters/Indigo for the shutdowns, but Oscar’s has cited the growing popularity of Amazon and usage of eBook readers as its reason. In fact, Chapters faces immense pressures from the same sources too- but it has larger amounts of capital and resources to sustain itself, unlike these small, independently-owned bookstores. But how long can it sustain itself for?

My biggest fear is that one day, not only will independent bookstores no longer exist, but even Chapters may go out of business. If that day ever comes, I will be really upset. In the meantime, I will continue to spend lovely Sunday afternoons browsing in my happy place, losing myself in a good book, and I will continue to support brick and mortar bookstores. I hope that enough people appreciate literature as much as I do, so that these companies are able to survive and thrive through all the technological changes in today’s society.

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