On Friday, July 23, 2010, I was just one of many authors, writers’ organization representatives, publishers, librarians and readers who joined together to honor the Book & Brier bookstore before they close their doors for the last time at 4065 Albert Street in Regina (Sask.) on July 31.

John & Sonia Kress

John & Sonia Kress, owners of the Book & Brier Bookstore at its closing.

We had greetings from many around Saskatchewan and neighboring provinces acknowledge the gap that the loss of a fine independent bookstore, like Book & Brier, is going to leave in the literary landscape.

It was a time to celebrate all that this independent bookstore has done to support prairie writers since they opened in 1968. As John indicated, generally it’s tough to decide what books to stock when you only have 25,000 or so titles, but it was easy with Saskatchewan published books β€” carry them all. Indeed, many Saskatchewan writers have enjoyed having at least one book launch at the Book & Brier or participating in various other events to promote them and their books. The same goes for authors right across Canada!

This article, titled, Will the last bookstore please turn out the lights? in the Globe & Mail picked one of John’s closing comments to open: β€œAny bookseller that thinks there is a hope is dreaming.” Yes, everyone agrees that the independent bookstores have huge competition from everything from online bookstores to deep discount sales through various vendors to the changing needs of readers β€” but does this really mean the end of things?

John indicated he’d thought long and hard about investing in the new wave of technology, the Espresso machine that eliminates inventory in bookstores altogether, as it simply prints up a book while you wait.

But in the end, he decided against the huge investment that’s currently more the domain of University bookstores and those in the largest cities. Instead, he decided to keep just the store’s wholesale division at 1809 McDonald St. open to serve schools, libraries and corporate accounts.

The Book & Brier are adapting to a new age where it seems we’re all going digital. Many of us decide what we want by surfing the Web, finding our favorite haunts to hang out in reviewing sites or reading the comments readers post on Amazon, or, if we’re lucky, as we are here in Saskatchewan, reading comments friends and neighbors around the province leave in our own provincial catalog at: http://catalog.sasklibraries.ca/ Once again, we’re at the forefront of technology, jumping into Web 2.0 and social networking to ensure our libraries are keeping up with the times.

Bookstores, and to take the discussion one step further, libraries, are certainly changing. They need to if they want to provide the services needed by modern society. I, for one, spend most of my day in the “virtual” world, so whether I chose to read an ebook or a print one, I certainly find it more convenient to simply select what I want online and have it delivered to my door (or post office box, as the case may be).

The face of bookstores is certainly changing, but with more books than ever before being published around the world, the reading experience gets better and better!