At The New Republic, Mark Athitakis eulogizes the steady collapse of Barnes and Noble. The store, which for many people growing up in rural and desolate areas provided the only literary community around, is now leaving a void in book culture.
Ever since the rapacious expansion of Barnes & Noble and Borders into suburbia in the late 1980s and early ’90s sparked the fury of independent booksellers, the chain has been depicted primarily as a foe. But then, as now, Barnes & Noble had its place. Its stores were designed to keep people parked for a while, for children’s story time, for coffee klatches, for sitting around and browsing. That was a business decision—more time spent in the store, more money spent when you left it—but it had a cultural effect. It brought literary culture to pockets of the country that lacked them.