On Sunday we went to Barnes and Nobles on Stevens Creek Blvd. It is quite a hike, but Agam and Tara go there for a quarterly visit to the “big book shop”. I decided to join them since I did not have much else going on. After all, who does not like a big book shop? 🙂
Agam is married to B&N ever since our Forest Hills days. Most of our date nights ended in a leisurely stroll in B&N on Austin Street. That happens even with Tara in our lives. It is a perfect way to end an evening because it is an activity that acknowledges our strong individualities and yet leaves room to share love for a common interest. Of which there are few – books, food, and even though Agam won’t accept, travel. He loves to hate his love for travel. Go figure!
When the Borders in Palo Alto closed down we were both deeply depressed. Soon after that a used book store on California Avenue shut down. I was naive enough to ask what it would take to buy the book store from the old man who ran it. We did not own a house back then. And I was willing to not own one for a while. And then Book Buyers decided to move to Gilroy! Out of all the places in the world they found Gilroy. To our credit, we did go to the new location. That is not going to happen very often.
We still have Books Inc on Castro Street in Mountain View, and one in Palo Alto. And there is one smaller book shop in downtown Sunnyvale. And of course there is Linden’s in Los Altos, and Bell books in Palo Alto. And yes there is Kepler’s in Menlo Park. There is also a very cute book shop that we love in Pacific Grove. I suddenly feel so much better. Situation is not as grim as I had imagined. But wait till you hear (or perhaps read) this.
I had a wonderful time in B&N after a very long time. I went through every single alley and looked for some known and some unknown names of authors. Cooking section was mind blowing. It was way bigger than the Management section. But the icing on the cake was the kids section. So much space to run around and sit and read. It was bigger than the kids section at MVPL.
I started picking up a few books as I went around my business. I did not even bother to see the price. When I got to the last section in the store, I decided to pick a few I wanted to buy and I was shocked to see the prices. There was steep mark up on all the hard covers and paper backs. As I started to cross check prices on Amazon, at one point I was saving over $50 on these books by simply clicking that Buy Now button on my phone.
I was so depressed. I really wanted to buy something. A token book, just to thank the store for being in business, so that my daughter can still enjoy a big books store, and I can stroll around for an hour looking for nothing in particular. But I could not. There was a huge difference in the prices of the books. Average difference being $8. It was clear that I was not going to take any book home 😦
I was troubled by this vicious circle. I am deterred from buying the books because of the steep prices, and the prices are steep because no one buys them in the store anymore and it is expensive to maintain a store. I have no solution to this problem. And that made me even more depressed.
So the situation is grim as I had claimed earlier. I don’t foresee B&N staying in business for a long time. And Tara will not have a big book shop to go to as she grows up. I wish I had a solution for this problem. Sigh
I also wish that someday I run a book shop + cafe. I know! Good Lord! What a recipe for failure. But wouldn’t you like to pick up a cozy corner in a cafe, and read to your heart’s delight? Pay for your coffee or tea and any home baked goods coming straight out of my oven. You can obviously buy the book if you want. Or just pay by the hour and leave. Now let’s take this bookshop and place it next to the waves, ah I mean the ocean, in Santa Cruz or Half Moon Bay, wherever the real estate situation is milder. And that is my retirement spot. You will find me there in twenty years.
Let’s give this dream a name – “Books by the bay”. You can come and read, or just drink coffee, watch the waves, and pay by the hour, just like an internet cafe. Here’s the radio jingle – “Books by the bay – perfect way to brighten your day”
Y Combinator – here I come!