• Is There Life After B. Dalton Death?

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments No comments

    Those who know me are getting tired of all of my pointless railing against the likes of Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com.

    So here’s some more.

    Monday’s Publishers Weekly Morning Report, compiled by Craig Morgan Teicher, offered the following blurb and link:

    “No Bookstore: Grand Forks, ND lost its last bookseller.  Here’s how it’s coping. From the Grand Forks Herald.”

    I clicked the link expecting to read a piece about a failing indy retailer shutting its doors, and how the residents of Grand Forks (pop. 51,000+) have conceived of a plan to compensate. Weekly city-wide book exchanges. An increase in literary events. Read-a-thons for the kids. Something warm and fuzzy.

    Instead, here is the lead from the Grand Forks Herald piece (all bolding my own, since my ^*(^&*%$ block quote thingie isn’t working):

    “Now that the B. Dalton store has closed at Columbia Mall, what are the chances that Grand Forks will attract another full-service, brand-name bookstore?”

    As soon as I read “full-service, brand-name,” I began to get a sinking feeling that this “story,” like so many others of its kind, would have me bleeding from my eyes and ears and anus. But as I continued, I began to feel bad for these Grand Forkers.

    The (B&N-owned) B. Dalton in Grand Forks was the last remaining B. Dalton in the country, due to a lease agreement that kept the store open until the last day of 2010. According to the article, since the store’s closing “city and business officials haven’t heard of any other bookstores interested in opening here.” Now that just plain sucks, right? If a town of 50,000+ has nowhere to go for books, it’s a serious problem. Although it’s always irritating to discover that a town’s sole bookstore is a chain, at least a B. Dalton is better than nothing.


    “Of North Dakota’s four largest cities, Grand Forks is the only one that doesn’t have a Barnes & Noble retail store.”

    Okay. I’d prefer we not make it specifically about Barnes & Noble, but whatever. Outside of the small-mindedness, point taken. This is shitty news.

    Then we get to a subheading titled “What to do?” Finally. Here is where we’ll get to read about the town banding together to create unique reading opportunities how there really is not even the trace of a problem in Grand Forks, and that with the closing of the B. Dalton, the situation has actually improved for those who still care about independent stores.

    “If you want to browse for books or buy a copy of a just-released novel by your favorite author, your options just got a lot more limited,” the piece continues. “But there are still at least two bookstores in Grand Forks.”

    Wait, what? First, PW’s Teicher tells me that Grand Forks has “lost its last bookseller” (good job on the research, Craig). Now I’m being told that there are other booksellers in Grand Forks. “At least” two (good job on the research, Ms. Tobin).

    “The UND Bookstore devotes perhaps one-third of its retail space to the latest releases, bestsellers, fiction, nonfiction, regional authors and children’s books.”

    Not terribly worried about specifics is Ms. Tobin, but at least she manages to convey what’s important–that there is a bookstore at the University of North Dakota, and that the bookstore (regardless of what percentage of its space is perhaps devoted to them) carries books. We also learn that books come in both fiction and nonfiction.

    Then she writes, “Ferguson Books & Media … carries about 25,000 mostly second-hand books.”

    So there’s a well-stocked college bookstore and a rather large indy reseller, and we’re crying bookstore poor? You know, when the B. Dalton closed in Laredo—a city of a quarter of a million—that was news. Laredo, already battling an illiteracy problem, became the largest U.S. city without a bookstore. But this? How is this even noteworthy?

    I decided to go back to the beginning and write out, step-by-step, what information came to me and how:

    1)      From Publishers Weekly: Last Grand Forks bookstore closing

    2)      From the Grand Forks Herald: Yes, our B. Dalton is closing

    3)      We have no “brand-name” stores left

    4)      But wait, there is that college bookstore

    5)      And wait some more … there is another independent store

    6)      Which carries 25,000 titles

    7)      And maybe there are more stores

    8)      I don’t really know

    Taking matters into my own hands, I decided to look into the Grand Forks bookstore situation on my own. Which was how I stumbled across the writer’s original piece, written after she first learned of the B. Dalton’s closing. In this earlier article, she details the UND Bookstore mentioned above, and then writes “Grand Forks also has a couple of used bookstores.”

    What? Now we have UND plus “a couple” of used stores?

    It’s not like Grand Forks is Manhattan. Is it really that difficult to get an accurate count of the number of bookstores in Grand Forks? What kind of reporting is this?

    But hold onto your hats, folks, as we move back to the more recent article—because this next part will rock your world. Forget everything you thought you knew:

    “The UND Bookstore and Ferguson’s also can order books for customers. However, if you have a computer and access to Amazon.com, you can order books for yourself.”

    Just retyping that passage almost made my head explode.

    Let us for now (and forever) ignore the fact that this writer is in essence telling us that here in 2011 it’s actually possible to order books through our own personal computers (as long as we have access to that whatever, that … whatchamacallit, that Inter-thingy).

    “Access to Amazon.com?” How wretchedly asinine. If it’s not Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com, it may as well not even exist.

    I guess this isn’t a rant against Amazon.com and B&N as much as it is a rant against bad reporting, bad writing, and narrow-mindedness.


    What to do?


    Well, I don’t know. But I don’t think I can continue with this post. It’s too long already, I’m bleeding from three orifices, and anyway, we’ve covered the gist of this “story.”

    So let’s just sum up: “Nowhere to turn — the page: Grand Forks left without brand-name bookstore” is a laughable bit of writing on what is essentially–outside of the Grand Forks Metropolitan Area–a non-story. (And I guess we’re too busy spinning punny headlines to  worry about proper capitalization. I’ll give Ms. Tobin the benefit of the doubt here and assume that one of her empty-headed editors wrote that one. And also the headline for the earlier piece, “Closing the book.”) (Go look for yourself. I couldn’t make these up.)

    In other words, Craig Morgan Teicher ruined my day for no reason at all. And now—if you’re anything like me—he has ruined yours, as well. Craig, if you’re going to be providing links for Publishers Weekly and implying that they’re newsworthy, please, can you dig a little deeper than the headlines? Seriously.

    And to the (what I’m sure are fine) folks of Grand Forks … if you need to buy a new release that you can’t find around town, I understand. Go ahead and order it online (from somewhere other than Amazon.com, please, because despite Ms. Tobin’s limited worldview, there actually are other online vendors). But if you just want to browse some books, or maybe pick up a title or two that you’ve missed, take a trip to Ferguson’s or the UND Bookstore.

    And let us not band together and lobby for a new Barnes & Noble in Grand Forks. I promise you, you can all lead full literary lives without one.


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