Originally Posted by Arithonne
But who is really driving that trend? Part of what made switching to ebooks so easy for me was that I was browsing the store shelves and not finding books I wanted to buy. If my book discovery is done through review blogs and recommendations from friends and family instead of from browsing store shelves, and to buy the book I have to order it online instead of being able to pick it up in store, then I might as well get all the convenience of ebooks.
I don't think that browsing in stacks and curated selections are necessarily mutually exclusive. When huge chunks of a given genre's shelf space are given over to small number of book from a few big name authors, it's hard for a heavy reader of that genre to find things to buy. It all comes down to which customers the book stores (and by extension the publishers, too) want to cater to. As far as I'm concerned, they stopped catering to me and other readers like me a long time ago.
This is only a guess on my part, but I think the number of people who browse the stacks and make large numbers of purchases is down from what it used to be. I don't blame those who buy the books on the front tables for the change in the way book stores work, I blame the lack of those who used to shop in the stacks. The stores are turning to the best market they have left.
Perhaps my best evidence of a downturn in reading is that used book stores are also doing less business (at least the ones I visit from time to time). They still have their (curated) diverse selections, but fewer people are buying. Reading just isn't as popular as it once was. Thank goodness that e-books (and AbeBooks) are making it easier to find what's harder to get in the brick-and-mortar shops.