Om is right AND wrong here. Yes the message is way more important than the medium, but there’s a real danger that in letting bookstores go we eliminate a whole raft of positive externalities.
The New York Times has been chronicling the trials and tribulations of Barnes & Noble, and in one of the pieces, the paper (which itself is on the receiving end of the digital whip) laments the loss of the traditional book-buying experience. Industry insiders are worried that as the stores die, books and the discovery of books are going to suffer, and as a result, book sales are going to take a nosedive. These arguments are no different from some of the hand-wringing over the shuttering of record stores.
Every time I walk down Broadway in New York, I see the shuttered space that once housed Tower Records, which was chock-full of musical goodness. I look at it wistfully, shake my head, walk on, and a few minutes later, when fancy strikes, I download the latest remix of Bad Boy Bass by Gaudi. I guess I’m one of those who believe that the message is more important than the medium.