Gary Becker

Traditional Bookstores and Libraries are Doomed by the Internet

It has been recognized for at least a decade that traditional bookstores and newspapers are essentially doomed by the growth of the Internet and digitization. Doomed also are postal systems, record albums, movie theatres, and most other traditional ways of providing information, entertainment, and other content to consumers. To take the US postal system as an example, after growing for many decades, the number of pieces of first class mail declined by 25% in past few years alone.

Even hard copies of books, newspapers, and films are beginning to go the way of bookstores and theatres. Millions of books and thousands of films are available online or in other digital forms, where they can be read or watched by almost unlimited numbers of consumers. Reading a book in digital form has a few disadvantages, such as it is more difficult to make notations in margins, although developments in software are making digital notations much easier. Moreover, with digitization one can have access to many books in a very light Kindle, or in an IPad that weighs only a few pounds, and also has many other uses.

One may lament the closing of many local bookstores, post offices, and movie theatres, and the sharp decline of giants in the newspaper business like the Washington Post, but the reasons for these changes are both clear and irreversible. Anyone with access to the Internet, and this access is rapidly growing worldwide, can much more readily order a book online than by going to buy it in a bookstore. Similarly, constant updates on the weather, sports, and news are more readily available online than from newspapers, or even from television.

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(photo credit: MorBCN)

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