The other day Barnes and Noble bookstores announced plans to close at least 20 stores a year for the next decade. This news troubles me because it’s the last big chain left - Borders is gone, Waldenbooks is gone, along with lots of others. Newspapers and news magazines are folding or cutting their budgets, getting smaller.
Late last year my local paper began hyping its upcoming great new revamp. It finally happened last week. The only revamp I noticed is how tiny it’s become; it literally downsized itself. If it had come in the mailbox instead of the driveway I’d have assumed it was junk mail and thrown it away. I wonder what's happening to all the news they’re not using.
The writing’s on the wall or more accurately, online: the Internet and e-readers are squeezing out print.
It’s a depressing state of affairs, especially because a new Taco Bell just opened near me. Now my town has two of them and I don’t have to drive quite as far to get my son’s cheese quesadillas. The closest Barnes and Noble however, isn’t as close to me as either Taco Bell. In fact, it's not close at all. That seems wrong.
The new Taco Bell got me thinking about bookstores. If I had to choose between buying a book and buying a burrito, I’d always choose the book. I’d rather visit a bookstore than a fast food joint and I’d rather read than eat (although I do love to read and eat. Also read and talk on the phone, read and watch TV and read and drive. Reading is like the color black: it goes with everything.)
Here's what I want to know: Why are fast food restaurants still so popular while bookstores are dwindling? I don’t recall ever hearing of a fast food chain announcing it was going to shut down a bunch of locations over ‘x’ number of years.
The opposite is happening. Like churches, fast food places are everywhere people are, ready to feed the hungry flocks. They reassure us of their presence just as McJesus did 2,000 years ago: “When two or three gather on empty stomachs we will be there .”
Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Arby’s, Little Caesar’s, Chik-Fil-A, White Castle, KFC Pizza Hut, Popeyes and more, spanning the country from coast to coast. And not a bookstore among them.
That’s That's why I think I have an idea that could not only reverse Barnes and Noble’s downward trend but actually revive the entire print industry: Bookstores have to reinvent themselves as fast food restaurants. This is loosely based on the timeworn premise, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."
The way to do this is to start selling books on buns. Or flatbread or whole wheat bread. For those who’re counting carbs, serve the book on a bed of lettuce with choice of dressing. For a Mexican flavor serve it in a taco shell with all the trimmings. Avoiding gluten? No problem; try a book on a mound of rice. How about everyone’s favorite, pizza, where any topping goes. I thought pineapple and ham on pizza sounded weird (still do) but a book as a pizza topping sounds downright scrumptious.
Book-on-a stick, book panini, deep-fried book, bacon-wrapped book, book wrap, chili & book, beer battered book, kung pao book; it takes the concept of having it your way to a whole new level. Of course you don’t actually eat the book (unless you want to - prepared the right way, books taste a lot like chicken). Ideally you’ll read it but even if you don’t, that’s the genius of book cuisine: The bulk of your meal goes on your bookshelf, not to your waistline or arteries!
To really secure its comeback though, Barnes and Noble needs a spokesperson like Jared “The Subway Guy” Fogle, the man who lost 245 pounds in a year eating two Subway subs a day. The hook could be “I lost weight by feeding my head instead of my gut and you can too."
I don’t want any more bookstores to close; I’d love to see the trend reverse itself. I believe fast food books are the answer. People will read more and improve their health at the same time. I’m so sure this idea's a winner, I'm thinking of getting in on it by opening a book bakery. My double chocolate chunk bookies are to die for.