While bookstores are failing, libraries are thriving

Bookstores in the United States have been on the decline in recent years, and many are chalking it up to a tough economy and surge of library patrons. With the convenience of e-books on the rise and the draw of free book rentals via local libraries, bookstores can’t keep up in modern American culture.

The Borders Group, founders of the popular national bookstore chain Borders, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was forced to close all their stores in 2011.

Barnes & Noble, another national bookstore chain, is closing about 20 stores yearly for the next 10 years, and the company has closed nearly 150 stores since 2003. The head honchos at B&N could be repositioning their stores to focus its market share, as the company has been opening stores every year since 2003, as well. However, no stores opened in 2012.

Perhaps the economy is one reason bookstore sales declined – purchasing hard copies of books takes up valuable shelf space and many are being forced to downsize their places of residence.

But libraries afford the valuable loan aspect of book reading. In this digital age, some people still want to hold physical books, not tablets, but that doesn’t mean people actually want to buy a print version. Paper versions that only occupy a house for a week, though, are much more likely to be taken home and thus libraries continue to survive in an increasingly online world.

Local library systems are categorically thriving in the U.S. and according to CMSWire, 53 percent of Americans surveyed visited their neighborhood library last year.

The convenience of reading online is another likely reason for bookstores’ decline in print sales. The prices for e-books are about one-half to two-thirds the cost of the paper versions, and are much more easily obtained. And with a quick download, e-books are ready to read on a tablet, all without leaving the couch.

More and more libraries are offering patrons the ability to check-out electronic versions of their books, which means patrons no longer have to haul heavy books to and from their homes. This proves incredibly useful for city dwellers dependent on public transportation. And with virtual operating hours, patrons can now check out e-books at all hours of the day.

All alone come Saturday night? Download the most popular e-book (and print) of last year, Fifty Shades of Grey, from your local library. It could keep you coming back for more.

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