Did 2020 Change Bookstores?

Have you visited a bookstore recently? Did you notice a change? I did.

It made me think: Did 2020 change bookstores forever? I keep asking myself this after visiting a bookstore for the first time in over a year.

It is no secret that our family loves books and bookstores. One of the things that we have missed over the last year is visiting bookstores.

Bookstores New Releases

My husband and I have really been missing just browsing the bookstore, so last week when we were running some errands, we stopped by a Barnes and Noble store near where we were. It is the first time in over a year that we have been to Barnes and Noble.

In fact, we have only been to two bookstores in the last year, but they were just quick stops at used bookstores, so we were so excited to spend some time looking around Barnes and Noble.

Bookstores Mystery books

It did not take long for both of us to realize that the store had changed a lot since we were in it last. We knew that 2020 changed a lot of things. It has been a hard time to be in business.

Everything in business from supply to buyers has changed. The book industry is no different. It was affected just like everything else.

We had heard books publishing and the book business had changed, but the reality of how much had changed hit us when we entered the Barnes and Noble store.

There was so much less stock. This might be due to changes in publishing and the fact that publishers have had a hard time printing books, but I am guessing that it is more than that. We couldn’t believe how few books there were in stock compared to a year ago.

And the type of books they carried changed too.

Bookstore New Release

There was a big display of new releases when you walked in the door. Because of how they had it displayed, it looked like a lot of books, but it really wasn’t. I was also surprised by the books in the new release section. Many of them were not really new releases because they were released months ago.

The nonfiction section is what changed the most though. It was so much smaller. We used to love to browse the nonfiction section at Barnes and Noble. You could always find some great books that you had never heard of.

Bookstores Nonfiction book

Browsing the nonfiction section at Barnes and Noble is how I found one of my favorite books from my nonfiction books for every state challenge. But there is no longer much browsing to do in the nonfiction section.

Bookstores Crime books

They did still have a decent true crime section, and I did see some new release nonfiction memoir-type books.

The nonfiction history is where we noticed the biggest change. The world history, WWII books, and American history were all a lot smaller than they used to be.

It didn’t take me long at all to look through the nonfiction history section. I found very few books I wanted. And unlike normal, I didn’t come away with a list of books I would want to buy down the road.

This is kind of sad because that is my favorite section at the bookstore. Are people not interested in history anymore?

Bookstores Manga books

The other thing we noticed was the Manga section. It was huge! The Manga section was bigger than the entire nonfiction history section. I had no idea Manga was so popular. I came home and talked quite a bit to Grace about the popularity of Manga. I don’t get it. Maybe that means I am old….

I left the bookstore feeling a little sad. I am not sure Barnes and Noble is a place that I will enjoy browsing anymore.

Did 2020 change bookstores forever? Did the events of the last year change the availability of books or are the type of books that people are reading changing? Is it a supply issue or is it a demand issue?

My guess is that it is a little of both.

Yes, it was so nice to be in a bookstore again. We bought a few books because we wanted to support the store. I want bookstores to survive, and they won’t survive if they don’t sell books. But they won’t sell books if they don’t carry very many books.

What do you think? What changes have you seen in bookstores around you? Has the last year changed bookstores and the books that they sell?

5 thoughts on “Did 2020 Change Bookstores?”

  1. Browsing the bookstore and the library are what my family has missed most during this past year as well. We refer to Barnes & Noble as our “Escape Room” – a well-stocked bookstore with clearly marked exits – you have one hour to get out. Nope, we never make it.

    We’d noticed that our Barnes & Noble rearranged everything during the months the store was shut down. Initially we’d thought it was just a great way to keep their employees employed. But then I read an article that said the new CEO was making changes which include display techniques, such as having small round tables, more covers facing front on the bookshelves, and non-fiction organized by category rather than alphabetically by author (ie. all of the Lincoln biographies are grouped together). He’s also giving local managers much more say in what they carry in their stores with the purpose of trying to better meet the interests of their particular communities. Personally I think there’s a positive and negative to this. It was very appealing to me that I could go into any Barnes & Noble, whether in Oregon, Texas, Minnesota, or Tennessee, and find the same things in the same places. I like the uniformity and predictability, and always thought that was a positive feature. On the negative side, stores may change from offering an inventory that meeds a wide variety of interests to having a selection that heavily leans in one direction or another.

    Competition with online shopping has made it more difficult for brick and mortar stores to stay in business and the B&N CEO is trying to keep the physical stores going. It’s understandable but is definitely an adjustment. It will be interesting to see if the strategy works for the long run.

    • I had not done any research into why Barnes and Noble had changed things. I thought maybe it was just my store, so thank you for sharing that! Although I don’t like the changes, I do hope it helps them survive. Bookstores were taking a hit before the craziness of the last year, I can’t imagine how much harder they have had it in the last twelve months. I love bookstores and want them to survive. I always try to buy at least one book when I visit a bookstore because I want them to be here for years to come. And I love that you call Barnes and Noble an Escape Room. What a great idea! My husband and I love to go to the bookstore for a book date. If we each buy a book it is usually not much more than going to a movie. We enjoy the bookstore way more and we get to take home a book. But I might need to start calling it a Bookstore Escape Room. 🙂

  2. My town has a Books-a-Million. It has definitely changed as well, in many of the ways you mentioned, Lynn. Most of all I have noticed less stock. But I guess that makes sense. BAM has also started buying and reselling used books. I really appreciate this because we no longer have a used bookstore near by. Like you, I always try to buy something when I visit. The other thing we noticed was they were really pushing their loyalty program.

    • I have not been into a Books-a-Million in a long time. I am glad that they have started buying and selling used books. I think they will help them survive. I am going to have to visit a Books-a-Million next time I am near one.

  3. I like that Barnes and Noble is doing what it can to keep brick and morter stores open. There is nothing better than browsing a bookstore!
    I think they are all carrying less new inventory. We have a Half Price Books near us and the area that use to be filled with the new books now has games and puzzles. The cookbook section that I visited had a wide variety but it was mainly used, which is fine with me.
    I get new books from the library anyway and then if I like them I try and find them used sometime later.


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