Friday, January 17, 2014

Book City says goodbye to the Annex.

Not long after the demise of Toronto's "Booksellers' Row" comes yet another blow to independent bookselling in the city, this time in my own neighborhood: Toronto mini-chain Book City will be closing its flagship store in the Annex after 38 years in operation. The Toronto Star reports:
Another of Toronto's independent book stores will soon be clearing its shelves and shutting its doors.

Book City's flagship location in the Annex will close this spring, the company's owner Frans Donker confirmed Thursday evening.

Earlier in the day, a message was posted on the bookstore's Twitter account, saying "Our Annex location is closing this spring, Stop by soon for amazing deals."

Book City's three other locations will remain open. The chain's High Park location closed in 2012.

The lease on the store at 501 Bloor St. W. is set to expire and keeping the store open doesn't make economic sense, Donker said.

"The area is changing," he said, explaining that, when the store opened in 1976, there were a variety of restaurants, markets and stores in the area. "Now it's all fast food joints. The area has changed rapidly in the last seven to eight years. And that is affecting our business."

After 38 years in the Annex, Donker said he's "extremely sad" to say goodbye to his first store.

"But I’m even sadder to tell 14 staff members that they're without a job."
Last night the local TV news ran an interview with Frans Donker in which the bookstore owner said that he felt like Book City had become "a showroom for the competition." In other words, many people would come into the store to browse only to make their purchases from online giants like Amazon.

It can be difficult to argue with the economic motives driving consumer preferences for lower-priced online booksellers. At dinner last night (before I had heard about the Book City closing), I was talking with another Jesuit about Indigo, a large Canadian bookselling chain. "I don't like Indigo," my confrere said. I asked why, and the other Jesuit replied, "Because Amazon is cheaper." I often buy from Amazon for the lower prices and broader selection (especially in areas like theology, which tend to be neglected by bricks-and-mortar bookstores, unless they're places like Crux Books). Having recently lamented the loss of a sense of place and community that comes with the closing of independent bookstores, I wonder whether I should put my money where my mouth is and make an even greater effort to buy from independents when possible. My choices in this regard may not make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but some things are always worth doing for their own sake. AMDG.


At 1/20/2014 10:12 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Jian Ghomeshi lamented the closing of this bookstore today on Q. We have lost a few along the way, too. It is difficult to find specialized books you want even at Indigo, that is true. Serendipity is what drives purchases at the independent bookstores. I miss the Greene Avenue Bookstore in Westmount with its resident cat.

At 1/22/2014 7:42 AM, Anonymous Siauliai said...

It is usually sad when business closes and I believe that it's difficult to compete with electronical books' shops. One of the solutions for bookselling places to stay on the market is to collaborate with cafes, this union is very profitable as I've noticed.


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