Normally, I avoid malls like the plague. Sometimes, when I’m strolling along, checking out all the shiny new clothes and items, I somehow end up feeling bad about myself. Huh? Should I have dressed up to go shopping? I’ve had some good experiences at the mall; seeing a movie, grabbing a quick smoothie on my way to the gym, or going to a specific store. However, I still find myself dreading every time I have to pull into the busy parking lot, especially around the holidays, breathing deeply and bracing myself for being in a bustling crowd.
However, when it comes to bookstores, it’s a whole different ball game!
Whether it’s a big box store with bright lights, the smell of fresh coffee and pastries waffling through the aisles of glossy covered books standing tall, all beckoning potential readers; or a low lit second-hand kitschy shop, full of interesting nooks and crannies, and musty smells, I love losing time in bookstores, and it seems, I’m not the only one. Nostalgia for bookstores is on the rise.
Thanks to the reopening of the economy, chain bookstores are seeing the light again. With book sales drastically rising during the pandemic, there’s a big resurgence of energy in the brick-and-mortar style of bookstores happening. In a recent Bloomberg article, Alexandra Lange wrote that book sales are up 13% year-over-year, more than 172 indie bookstores opened in the US in 2021, and big players like Barnes & Noble are quickly expanding.
A big push for this trend is a result of people creating videos on TikTok. BookTok is a hash tag where passionate readers rave about their favorite novels. BookTok is for anyone who loves to read, however, the majority of popular content creators are teenagers; so there are a lot of great recommendations for Young Adult Fiction, as well as other genres. “Fueled by nostalgia for the sprawling chain bookstores that once served as crucial third spaces for hangouts and run-ins, and by TikTokers who are driving book sales with their literary themed content, at least 172 new independent bookstores opened in 2021 — some of them in malls” Lange writes.
Millennials and Gen Xers are also flocking to bookstores, with nostalgic for the experiences they grew up with. One of my favorite memories is attending the midnight release part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on July 21 2007. This party was amazing, and thousands of similar celebrations took place in countries around the world. I recall standing in a line up, next to a face painting table for children, listening to a live band, watching a pick-up Quidditch match being played in an open section of the store, people laughing while trying to jog on broom sticks, and sipping a Butterbeer, with real beer- as let’s face it, many of us Harry Potter fans who grew up with the series, were legal drinking age by the time the last book was released. For me, this was honestly a peak bookstore experience.
“That era, 1997 to 2007, was truly a sweet spot for readers,” Jenna Amatulli HuffPost Trends Reporter wrote in 2017. “They watched the fandom bloom from nothing, lined up willingly outside of a physical store — oftentimes without a celebrity-sighting incentive — and read without the fear of a push-alert or Twitter spoiler.”
Part of the current expansion includes rethinking how bookstores operate.
“Rather than just being a place where you could buy a book, what if Barnes & Noble could become a place where you could discover a book?” Russell Raath writes in a Forbes article (Feb 2021). James Daunt, Chief Executive for Barnes & Noble’s explained that they are embracing new strategies and trends.
“Instead of focusing on maximizing economies of scale and simplifying the in-store shopping experience—tactics that once fostered success but, in the age of Amazon, are now leaving stacks empty—Mr. Daunt is looking to empower individual store managers to curate their shelves based on local tastes. In doing so, he is letting go of those who supervised large groups of stores and firing nearly half of the company’s New York-based book buyers who once decided which titles to put on shelves.”
As well, Barnes & Noble are remodeling its stores to make “Booktokers” feel more welcoming with colorful shelves and tables filled with popular BookTok titles. On May 3, the company will launch its limited edition of A.F. Steadman’s “Skandar and the Unicorn Thief”, and that launch will include elements that are aimed at the BookTok community.
Books are more than words; they are vehicles for entering the realms of imagination and opening the doors of possibilities. Where we buy our books can sometimes be as special and memorable as the stories themselves. When it comes to books, I want a place where people gather, share ideas, and offers great recommendations from knowledgeable readers and fellow explorers.
“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”—Neil Gaiman
An avid book reader and proud library card holder, Angela is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, fitness, loves to be in nature, travelling and exploring. With an honours science degree in anthropology, Angela also studied writing after graduation. She has contributed work to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Best Version Media, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.