My friend Paulette Tobin has an article about Grand Forks, N.D., now being without a full-service bookstore carrying a full line of new books. This is particularly shocking when you consider the city, with a metro area population of just under 100,000, is also home to the University of North Dakota. Plainly, we’re not talking a community of illiterates.
The city’s plight results from the fact the B. Dalton store in the local mall, the last in the country, closed at the end of 2010. That means the city is left with the university bookstore and an independent store that specializes in used books. More important, “city and business officials haven’t heard of any other bookstores interested in opening here.”
Barnes & Noble, which owned B. Dalton, used to run the UND bookstore but lost that contract nearly two years ago, according to Paulette’s story. Yet Barnes & Noble says it isn’t interested in opening a store in Grand Forks and, given the financial struggles Borders is facing, it’s hard to imagine that chain would consider doing so. And when a town has to look to chain bookstores for salvation, that may say a lot.
Paulette indicates that about a third of the retail space at the UND bookstore is devoted to new releases, bestsellers and general fiction and nonfiction. Yet the store’s hours are limited; it closes at 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Given that a campus bookstore probably isn’t all that attractive to the average individual to begin with, you don’t even have the choice of heading there to peruse the shelves on a Saturday evening. And wandering the shelves is one of the joys of any bookstore and, at least in my experience, a major contributor to the decision to purchase books.
So, for the time being, Grand Forks residents are left with online vendors and the town with a reputation of a college town that can’t support a full service bookstore.
Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore!
Henry Ward Beecher, Star Papers