One of the most enjoyable things about downtown Victoria is the number of bookstores. You cannot walk a block without running into new and used bookstores, most of which, are independently owned. Munro’s, in particular, is a long standing establishment in Victoria (Alice Munro was once married to the owner). When you shop at Munro’s, you know that all of the books and magazines have been carefully selected. You can peruse the new releases, the cookbook section and the remaindered table all in one visit since the size of the store is manageable. And if you have a question, then the staff, all of whom are clearly lovers of books, are more than happy to help you out.
I have often wondered how all of these bookstores have survived, especially in an age where the publishing industry seems to be struggling to hang on. My guess is that the shift to electronic reading devices, the rise of niche markets and competition from big box stores are only part of the answer for the changing nature book selling. Walking around downtown and losing time in a bookstore is one of my absolute favourite ways to spend time. I think bookstores survive in part due to their location (i.e. vibrant, walkable communities) and in part due to the experience itself.
Moving to Geneva has meant finding books in a different way. For the most part, I rely on the Geneva Public Library, which is located downtown in a delightful old building. You can also find books downtown at Stomping Grounds and the Finger Lakes Gifts and Lounge. Leaving the downtown, you can find a bookstore on campus or you can buy books at the grocery store.
Recently, I was visiting the Village of Potsdam, NY, which has a population of approximately 9,500 and is home to two universities (Clarkson and SUNY Potsdam). I noticed that there was a bookstore downtown and took a few minutes to pop in and check it out. It turned out to be a university bookstore, so there were lots of clothes and other campus gear as well as books. Nevertheless, it had a nice selection of books and a little coffee shop in the front window.
I’m not sure how long this bookstore has been located downtown nor how its fearing in this location. In recent years, a new road was built in Potsdam to enable cars to by-pass the downtown. Looking around, it didn’t seem like there were many pedestrians out and about, although the downtown is still very quaint.
Who knows what the magic formula for success might be. I certainly hope that great bookstores continue to exist and not just in bigger cities like Victoria (yes, Victoria now strikes me as a big city!).