100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

On Big Box Books and Vinyl (Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New)

I’m definitely not the first to make this sort of comparison…

In the early Aughts I hit my fair share of chain music store liquidation sales. Sam Goody, Tower Records, and other mall-type CD shops that were going out of business post music industry collapse. I didn’t feel good about the doors closing, but I knew the business was forever changed. And scouring the racks brought me some new music.

This came back to me after reading about how Barnes & Noble is going to be closing 20 stores a year for the next decade. Don’t worry, I’m not getting nostalgic for the halcyon days of big box bookselling, but I do agree with this gist of this article that says it might truly be a positive for the independents that are left. Although, we have sort of been here before.

Here’s what makes me a bit of a believer, though: while I don’t have a dedicated chain music store in my town anymore, I do have an independent record store. But they don’t sell the latest in digital formats – they’re all vinyl now. The people who go in are there for things Sam Goody never really provided. This gives me hope for the indie booksellers.

So while we all thought that the big box booksellers were going to kill all the indies (and there has definitely been a fair share of that), it’s looking like the market and technology have hammered everyone, but the big boxes could take the abuse for longer. But now the biggest is about to close hundreds of stores.

I don’t know what’s going to become of my local Barnes & Noble – who knows, I might be shopping another liquidation sale soon. I won’t be happy about it, but the biz is tough right now. Thankfully Schuler Books, and Pooh’s Corner, and McLean and Eakin, and Anderson’s, and a lot of the other indies we love are still doing their thing.

Stick around guys.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. We’ve seen the same thing here. Our city has four independent music stores, even, and they seem to still be thriving. I think the thing that will keep them and independent bookstores and, ultimately, libraries alive and well is this idea of a curated collection one can come and browse. The big box stores put too much stock in selling things everyone already knew about anyway.

  2. Yeah, what about You’ve Got Mail? I thought the Big Box was putting the indies out of business too. The world has turned upside down!

  3. Travis,

    You need to come with me to meet Joanna from the Bookbug in Kalamazoo. In April they will be doing a mother/daughter signing with Betsy and mom–definitely put that one on your calendar. Also, on Thursday, March 28 (from about 3-5) Matt Faulkner will be in the store drawing and signing, if you are interested.

    I don’t mean to take away from Schuler’s et al. Another fine independent in Michigan is Peter Sieruta’s favorite store, Book Beat in Oak Park, MI. I hope others around the country will chime in with their favorite independent bookstores. In California, I have fond memories of the White Rabbit. In Denver, the Tattered Cover used to be the king of the independents. Elliott Bay in Seattle. And, although not a children’s bookstore, I loved the Mysterious Bookshop on 56th in NYC. Found and fell in love with Donald Westlake here (wonder if it is still in business–used to know the manager).

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Somehow I’ve never been to the Bookbug, but I always hear it’s a great place. Thanks for adding some of your favorites to the list!

  4. Dear people everywhere,

    Pursuant to what Travis says above, please keep public libraries open. Do you really want Wal-Mart to be the only place where people on my little rural peninsula can go to page through some picture books? Cause I don’t.

    With considerable concern