Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Alternate Plan For The World's Biggest Bookstore

In case you hadn't already heard, it appears that the lease on the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto is up for renewal and the store may end up closing.

I'm not going to list the many ways this would suck. I love the WBB. Guaranteed anytime I go in there I walk out with at least two books, if not more. That place is dangerous for me to go into, and yet I want it to remain. I've already sent feedback to Chapters/Indigo stating this and I hope you'll do the same after reading this.

Now, that being said, I would like to offer up an idea for the space if Indigo and the landlords can't work out a deal. Turn it into the world's largest permanent book-fair/book flea market.

Don't worry, there's a method beyond my madness, or a madness in my method, or someone's messing with my method and it's making me mad, whatever. The point being, the main draw for the WBB was you could go in and find just about anything. What if, instead of one corporate entity controlling/using the space we had a plethora of publishers and booksellers in there?

I know the idea seems crazy but look at it this way. How many small publishers out there are renting storage space to hold copies of their books, copies that might end up sitting around because no one knows about them or can't find them because big chains such as Chapters/Indigo wont carry them? How about storing those books in the heart of downtown Toronto in a location that could sell them? According to the article linked above the WBB space is being rented for about $33.00 (I'm assuming this is monthly, not yearly) a square foot. Wouldn't it be worth it to have books setup and available in a secure location that could see a large amount of foot-traffic?

Add in the fact that, let's face it, Chapters/Indigo is really not doing their best to keep up the WBB, so a little bit of renovation and in addition to a wide variety of publishers you could have a nice coffee place and some chairs with which to sit and read said purchases while on a break. Better yet, make it a fair-trade independent coffee house to bring in the modern yuppie/hipster crowd, but serve coffee that normal people might like as well so you can cater to both crowds. (In other words, don't plop in another generic Timmies or Starbucks, but at the same time feel free to slap the hipsters upside the head of they get too pretentious.)

As much as I hate to say it, since I do love the WBB, I think my idea might be a better use for the space. It keeps it dedicated to literature but removes the overreaching corporate entity running it and gives smaller publishers and booksellers an ideal place. Don't get me wrong though, I have nothing against Chapters/Indigo and do purchase books for them, but I think ultimately the book ecosystem benefits but having multiple players rather than one monolith strangling the smaller sprouts.

Do I think my idea likely to ever happen. Sadly, no. I think it's more likely the space will get snapped up and either turned into more overpriced condos or portioned out into clothing stores. But I going to hold onto some hope that either what I propose happens or WBB manages to keep alive.

If you had control of the space, what would you do?

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