toronto3High rental costs hurt independent bookstores. Instead of focusing on e-books and their impact on brick-and-mortar bookstores, Publishers Weekly cites the ability of chain stores to leverage their higher credit rating in negotiating rent. But that’s not all. PW also notes the changes urban planners are making to indie-friendly small downtowns to promote more walkable cities.

Even small changes in our economic infrastructure can be far-reaching. Our local school board often complains of declining enrollment. And meanwhile, housing prices are so high that they are out of reach for many young families. The Beloved’s sister moved further away in order to afford a house—and took with her two more kids bailing on the local schools. And with the exodus from the schools comes too the exodus from library systems, bookstores, retail establishments, restaurants and so on. And even if a brand-new Walmart hadn’t opened ten minutes from her far-flung subdivision, Amazon will mail her anything she wants to buy—and in the case of e-books, she and her family don’t even have to wait for the mail. It’s all instantaneous. And we are only now beginning to realize the consequence that you can’t build a vibrant economy on a city full of overpriced one-bedroom condos.

A year ago, all the ‘threats to indie bookstores’ articles would have been about e-books cutting into paper sales. Now, we are finally starting to get the more nuanced picture that was there all along. It may be a little bit about that. It may be a little bit about the ‘chain’ stores too. But it’s also about the struggles many urban centres are having to build more sustainable communities which are friendly to a diverse potential group of residents. It isn’t ‘video killed the radio star’ at all. That would be a far too simplistic way of looking at what is actually a complex issue.


  1. You could probably have put in a word or two about gentrification, too—the sort of thing where an influx of Google employees is effectively pricing many neighborhoods in San Francisco out of the markets of the people who used to live there. That sort of thing can affect businesses, too—especially bookstores.

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