Book stores in train stations

Sometime in the last year or so, New York’s Grand Central Station lost its one and only book store. I didn’t think much of this at the time, because when I use public transportation out of the city, I generally go from Penn Station or the Port Authority.

But yesterday I saw that the two book stores at Port Authority (both owned by the same people), had gone out of business. Their entrances were boarded up, with signs telling the names of the stores that would soon be opening in their place.

At first I took this as a very dark omen. “Alas,” I said to myself, “Americans no longer read!” We are all so focused on movies, TV shows, computer games and social networking, that reading is becoming a vanishing art.

But on reflection, I’m not so sure. Reading isn’t going away, and commuters are still reading on the go. It’s just that reading is increasingly being done on other media. The electronic economy of literature is push aside the atoms-based one, as eReaders, iPads, and SmartPhones replace paper and ink.

After all, it costs a lot to rent a store at the New York Port Authority. As physical books become progressively less dominant as the reading platform of choice, selling physical books to commuters becomes a less viable value proposition. This year just happens to be the year when the economies of this transition have reached a crucial tipping point.

For a while now, the writing has been on the wall. Or, should I say, on the screen.

One thought on “Book stores in train stations”

  1. My view on physical books is slowly shifting from “treasure” to “clutter”. Some more mundane tech books in my library are already sliced up and fed to the scanner. The large glossy art books, I still keep.

    Then there was discovering an original copy of Paolo Soleri’s “Arcology” in the university library. It’s like over 2′ across, you open it up (ka-flop!) and it covers the table. The first page spread is blank except for one sentence in small print: “This book is about miniaturization”

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