The Barnes & Noble Bookstore at Jack London Square has closed.
You may not realize it, but Barnes & Noble was for years much more than a huge emporium where you could find thousands of books as well as calendars, games, and whatnot. Now I love independent bookstores, but this chain store was unusual in the way it quietly and steadily gave back, year after year, to Oakland’s schools and local nonprofit organizations.
Everyone knows that brick and mortar bookstores are fighting for their lives in this era of cut-price internet purveyors. But when a store like Barnes & Noble closes, we lose something the internet can never give us. You can’t shake a favorite author’s hand on the internet or have her inscribe a book to you. Little kids can’t hold books online or choose a book to bring to a grownup to read to them. (Did you know that just handling books and watching adults read books helps toddlers get ready to learn to read?) There’s something magical about being physically surrounded by beautiful new books that’s different: just ask any kid who’s ever been let loose in a bookstore.
Bookstores are places where things happen, where kids learn, where memories are formed. Oakland needs as many bookstores as possible – big and little, all over town. The passing of Barnes & Noble is a sad thing for our children, our families, and all of us.