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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

The gathering storm

End-of-days watch:

There was a time barely a generation ago when Barnes & Noble seemed to be becoming too powerful, with its superstores and the since-shuttered Dalton mall chain dominating the industry. Now, as Petri writes, there is a sense that Barnes & Noble is in a struggle, and the fate of the brick and mortar stores are in the balance. "Just stop closing the bookstores," she appealed, "You have something special! Don't throw away your birthright in this frenzied dash after the thin pottage of the eBook market." In a way, it is a tribute to books that how they are sold--even when it is by a big, publicly traded chain--can arouse emotions. Those once choc-a-bloc bookshelves and lively aisles in Union Station and elsewhere will be genuinely missed.

Ordinarily, I'd pass over another dreary "print is disappearing" story. Why read about icebergs while you're on the Titanic? But I happened across it just after seeing this similar report:

Experts are predicting that up to 15% of US shopping malls are forecast to close over the next five years as online shopping continues to surge. The United States has over 1300 regional malls (over 450,000 square feet) and that could mean that up to 195 of them will shut down.

Is it possible to lose the impulse to gather, I wonder? Browisng through the shelves at B&N is a true joy, not just for the serendipitous discovery of new reading adventures, but as well for the sharing of the discoveries with someone of similar tastes. But the ability to carry around hundreds of books in a package the size of one book just gets more appealing all the time.

Remember when malls became the new downtowns as people freaked out over teenagers using them as hangouts? Now we worry about them losing all social skills in their texting-all-the-time fog.