Even in publishing's "capital"
It's pretty much old news that bookstores are an endangered species, but for what it's worth, the NY Times has a story today on the shrinking number of bookstores in Manhattan.
The story primarily focuses on high rents, which is certainly an important factor, especially in New York. But there are other facets, including the reality that stores are limited in the amount of money they can charge for each book, and at the same time can't hope to draw mass crowds of customers at all times. Competition from on-line stores and e-books have steadily driven the unit price of books down in real terms, and while this has hurt authors most, bookstores are along for the ride. Even with a friendly landlord, the overhead for small businesses can be frightfully high.
From the NY Times:
Rising rents in Manhattan have forced out many retailers, from pizza joints to flower shops. But the rapidly escalating cost of doing business there is also driving out bookstores, threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers.
“Sometimes I feel as if I’m working in a field that’s disappearing right under my feet,” said the biographer and historian Robert Caro, who is a lifelong New Yorker.
The full story.
In the story, an agent is quoted wondering why publishers don't have their own bookstores. At one time, this would have been considered monopolistic; there were also the objections from "customers" - bookstores - to contend with. But it will probably happen at some point in the not too distant future.