I'll be in London next Friday to speak at The Bookseller conference about the future of the book, an event appropriately called Digitise or Die. Sadly, the conference won't help Cody's Books of Berkeley which, in the face of competition from both online and mass market chains, shut its doors on Sunday for good. The death of Cody's is what Chris Anderson glibly calls the "road kill" on the route to his digital cornucopia. This is what Anderson told the LA Times about the death of high quality, independent bookstores like Cody's:
"The clear lesson of the Long Tail is that more choice is better. Since bookstores can't compete on choice, many once-cherished stores are going to be road kill."
This is entirely wrong. Like me, Anderson lives in Berkeley. He and I and thousands of other Berkeley people have infinitely less choice without Cody's. Now, when we want to buy a book, we have to go online to make our purchase. No more trips with my kids (who adored Cody's) to let them explore the store's fantastic children's section. No more lazy afternoons browsing new releases. No more Christmas eve buying sprees where I could do all my holiday shopping in an hour.
The Internet's infinite choice can't and won't replace stores like Cody's. Book retailing is dying in America. And we are all horribly impoverished by it.