Amazon Was Here

Retail is a mixed bag across the country. Malls in smaller cities are struggling, as former anchor tenants like Sears and J.C. Penney have closed stores, and many smaller shops have shuttered. Larger retail has shifted to shopping complexes anchored by a Walmart or other big-box store. Drive through any community other than Portland and notice the abundance of unfilled retail space.

The late, great Bookland Store sits vacant at Cook's Corner, in Brunswick.

The late, great Bookland Store sits vacant at Cook’s Corner, in Brunswick.

Smaller malls and shopping centers were popping up all over the place in Maine three decades ago. This pretty much sealed the deal for Mom and Pop small hardware stores and other locally-owned shopping options. Now, many of those same strip malls and retail havens have multiple vacant storefronts.

If video killed the radio star in 1979, then online giants like Amazon killed the local book store, as well as other retailers 35 years later. Nothing to get perturbed about—just another example of our unwinding—and greatness long gone.

Three other storefronts next to Bookland are empty.

Three other storefronts next to Bookland are empty.

Ten years ago, if you released an independently-produced book, you could sell it at Bookland, Mr. Paperback, and even Borders. Mr. Paperback had 10 stores scattered across the state. They made book distribution easy for small press publishers. Even a chain like Borders—their two locations in Bangor and South Portland sold close to 300 copies of my first book. Losing these bricks-and-mortar book retailers has made indie publishing challenging for everyone save the one-percenters.

It makes me wonder what our local retail options might be in another 10 years.

3 thoughts on “Amazon Was Here

  1. According to one techno-utopian advocate, via a combox I now cannot find, “work” goes away and is replaced by artificial intelligence and machines. All humans are paid a living wage for living (I guess) and they work on art projects and various public work projects. I was relieved to read this and happy to pass this along although I am unable to answer your question about local retail options north of Portland in the year 2046.

  2. @JAB As we’ve discussed, technology does have limits. Of course, the techno-utopians never admit this. Not so sure AI and machines is the kind of utopian Mecca that these snake oil peddlers would have us believe. Sounds pretty dystopian to me. Perhaps the Bookland locale (vacant since the store’s closing) might end up being a AI-related facility, along with Brunswick Landing. Or, some kind of public works facility for the living-wagers still above ground.

  3. Walmart and the re-routed highway to Bath buried Cooks Corner, but it’s fair to say that closing NAS Brunswick was its terminal illness. Amazon may be a reader’s friend, but it’s no friend to authors. I’m impressed at 300 copies sold out of Borders, and it goes to show that the big chains weren’t the threat, after all. I’m in my sixth day in Houlton, and still swear that I won’t set foot in the Walmart, but short of scooting up to Presque Isle or down to Bangor, choices are pretty limited. Books? Nope, not at all.

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