Despite challenges faced by the publishing industry and past predictions, the written word has not seen its last day
In the mid-1980s when I joined Random House as an editor, there was widespread angst in the publishing industry about the growing role of mall-based bookstores -- Walden and Dalton were then the major chains -- because they emphasized bestsellers and genre categories such as science fiction and romance over literary titles and serious nonfiction. A trend toward discounting, led by Crown Books based in Washington, was another worry, opening the way to price competition instead of the traditional acceptance of prices set by publishers. Walden, Dalton, and Crown are all now gone, along with Borders, which was then becoming the up-market retailer because of its commitment to so many varieties of books and its innovative inventory system.
By the 1990s, it was Barnes & Noble that was considered the major force in bookselling, with sprawling superstores across the country. B&N refined a policy that required publishers to pay increasing marketing dollars to secure prime placement for their lead titles; another significant breach in the genteel practices that the industry had long followed. Barnes & Noble stores featured large sections of "bargain" books, publisher leftovers known as remainders that were sold to jobbers at pennies on the pound. B&N also began publishing books under its Sterling imprint, which took up significant additional floor space. Sterling is now for sale, so far unsuccessfully. Many of B&N's most imposing superstores have been closed, including Washington's M Street store in bustling Georgetown and a massive emporium in Manhattan across from Lincoln Center.