Amazon’s assault on the mall has killed a US book chain

Everything-must-go store.
Everything-must-go store.
Image: AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
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An American book world is ending.

The 40-year-old midwestern chain Book World said yesterday (Oct. 31) it will close all 45 of its locations across seven states. The chain is run by the family of Bill Streur, who opened its first store in 1976 in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

The company will dissolve after all its stores have been liquidated, likely by January.

Book World simply couldn’t survive the popularity of e-commerce. And shopping malls, where many Book Worlds are located, are losing to Amazon. So as the store lost its own book-loving customers to online shopping, it also missed out on potential ones passing the store.

“With this huge trend toward online shopping and e-commerce, we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Mark Dupont, the store’s senior vice president, tells Quartz. “The younger you are, the less likely you are to get into your car and drive to a shopping mall.”

The news of the shutdown was sudden, after it became clear just last week to company leadership that sales couldn’t recover. Book World had just opened a new location last month in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Indie bookstores have seen a bit of bounce-back that some industry people interpret as the result of digital fatigue—that people who are sick of screens want to browse among print books and buy them in person. That’s potentially true in specific urban areas, but in medium-sized book markets, like many of Book World’s, stores aren’t as accessible as in bigger cities and can’t build the same level of loyalty.

Dupont says nine years ago Book World took a big hit from the rise of ebooks, but recovered and indeed saw customers come back with an excitement for physical books. He doesn’t see that happening now. “In the right areas books can still thrive,” he says, “But it’s becoming harder and harder.”