The Decline of the Bookstore

The potential closure of the World’s Biggest Bookstore is only one of many

By: Megan Harris, Staff Writer

The book lovers’ community of Toronto is facing some bad news – the possible closure of the iconic World’s Biggest Bookstore.

The World’s Biggest Bookstore, located near the Yonge and Dundas shopping district in Toronto, is owned by Indigo. It’s 64,000 square feet  of space packed with literature doesn’t have the same small bookshop charm that a lot of independents do. Still, it has become a popular fixture in Toronto, and includes 20 km of bookshelves.

The bookstore’s lease expires December 2013, and according to reports, it seems unlikely Indigo will be able to negotiate a new lease. Toronto Life reported that Indigo is “seeking a significant reduction in the annual rent of roughly $1.5 million,” and that the building’s owners would rather find another retail tenant.

Given the bookstore’s central location in Toronto, this probably wouldn’t be a difficult task.

“The existence of a large retail space like this, just steps from Yonge and Dundas is the hen’s tooth of all hen’s teeth – incredibly rare,” broker Stuart Smith, vice-president of the urban retail group for the commercial real estate company CB Richard Ellis, told the Toronto Star recently. “I’ve had the biggest of the big [retailers] looking at it from all over the world.”

It’s not the first time a beloved bookstore has closed in Toronto, although a lot of the stores that have closed recently were independent. Take Pages Books and Magazines on Queen Street, which closed in 2009 after rent became too expensive. There’s also The Book Mark, Toronto’s oldest independent bookstore, which closed this past January due to high rent and property tax costs. The store had operated since 1965. The Flying Dragon bookstore in Toronto’s Leaside neighbourhood announced its plans to shut down last May, days after being named Specialty Bookseller of the Year by the Canadian Booksellers Association.

The list of bookstores closing in Toronto – and even across Canada – could go on and on. In today’s economy, it seems that people still love bookstores and the atmosphere they provide, but not enough people are buying from them to support the increasing costs of running such businesses. The cost of rent, property taxes, and upkeep just can’t compete with the decreasing demand for bookstores. A lot of blame is being placed on the increasing popularity of e-books. Last year, online retailer Amazon announced it was selling more e-books than hardcover and paperbacks combined.

And while it’s true that e-books are more convenient, more portable, and easier to bring on a commute to work, to name a few features – isn’t there something nice about picking up an actual book? And going into a real bookstore to choose that book? Based on the comments of stories about the World’s Biggest Bookstore’s potential closure and of reports on other bookstore closures, it’s clear that many people are not happy with the trend from page to screen.

– TheGlobeAndMail
TorontoLife (World’s Biggest Bookstore could soon be downtown’s biggest vacant retail space)
TorontoLife (Flying Dragon bookshop)
– The Star (Bookstore announces shutdown days after winning award)
The Star (Toronto’s World Biggest bookstore slated to be closed in 2013)

Banner and feature images courtesy of Martin Cathrae

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