“The national bookstore chain has peaked as a sales channel, and the growth is not going to come from there,” said David Steinberger, chief executive of the Perseus Books Group. “But it doesn’t mean that all brick-and-mortar retailers are cutting back.”
A wide range of stores better known for their apparel, food and fishing reels have been adding books. The fashion designer Marc Jacobs opened Bookmarc in Manhattan in the fall. Anthropologie has increased the number of titles it carries to 125, up from 25 in 2003. Coldwater Creek, Lowe’s, Bass Pro Shops and even Cracker Barrel are adding new books. Some mass retailers, too, are diversifying — Target, for instance, is moving away from male-centered best sellers and adding more women’s and children’s titles this year.Cracker Barrel. Cracker Barrel. We have arrived, it appears, at a moment when a book is roughly equivalent to a roll of masking tape--a more or less interchangeable commodity that you can buy at any one of many retailers. But a place to immerse yourself fully in it? A place that curates it? A place where anybody knows anything about it? Nope.
If you had told me in the late nineties that Amazon customer comments would eventually be one of the only remaining sources of generalized literary expertise in the world, I would have laughed at you, then gotten a funny look on my face, then said oh my god, then retreated to a corner to whimper. But maybe that's where we're at.