Visting my neighborhood Barnes & Noble for the first time in months, I was mildly surprised that the store had said goodbye to its music and video businesses.
The once vibrant CD and video section, recently augmented by vinyl's fizzled comeback, had been replaced by shelves bulging with toys, puzzles, games and glitzy gifts. Toys 'R' Us died last year, only to be resurrected at Barnes & Noble.
Gazing upon the shelves packed with Christmas kitsch, I felt like Jimmy Stewart's character in "It's a Wonderful Life" when Mr. Potter commercializes the town.
Books were still hanging on, although I wondered why anyone would want to buy the second volume of Gary Giddens' Bing Crosby biography. The hardcovers lying upon the "new arrivals" table seemed enervated..
The new "gifts and collectibles" section had also taken over space formerly occupied by the poetry, drama and music literature sections. I feared that poetry, like jazz, rock and classical music, had also been sacrificed to raging consumerism.
But I found that poetry books had been moved to a new, perhaps larger, section. Alas, the adjacent essays section appeared smaller, and the erstwhile literary criticism section had vanished.
Thank god and Rupi that poets come up with a couple of best sellers here and there.
In contrast, the long-dying CD business and the zombie return of vinyl were unable to counter the popularity of music streaming. With so much free music, even big stars have to grub for money.
As for the death of video, blame Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, Hula, and so on. The old retail model couldn't withstand the "disruption" of mobile devices.
As struggling B&N raises its bets on kids' amusements, the book business received some good news. Magazine web sites like the Atlantic, Buzz Feed and New York magazine have boosted their coverage of books, the Columbia Journalism Review reported.
A lot of the new book news gives attention to already popular authors. The sense of discovery of old book-review sections is gone.
Despite the expanded poetry section, B&N likely will give more space to bestsellers, gimmicky self-help books and business oracles than serious literature. And Amzaon will remain the monster at the dark end of the street.