No bookstores in Nashville?

By Razib Khan | June 29, 2011 4:19 pm

That’s what Ann Patchett is claiming. More specifically, there are no bricks & mortar institutions which specialize in selling new books. There are places you can get used books in the city of Nashville. To remedy the situation Patchett is opening up a bookstore herself. She asserts that “…we’ve got to get back to a 3000-square-foot store and not 30,000. Amazon is always going to have everything – you can’t compete with that. But there is, I believe, still a place for a store where people read books.”

I recall going to a Barnes & Noble when I was in Nashville in the summer of 2004. Here’s some demographic data: “As of the 2010 census, the balance population was 601,222. The 2000 population was 545,524.” The details here are a bit muddy because parts of Davidson county are included with the Nashville total, but you get a general sense of how substantial the population of this city is. As a point of comparison Eugene, OR, has a population of 156,185, and 29 Yelp hits for bookstores. Nashville has 46 results.

Back to Patchett’s claim, I think there is something there. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out in the details. But consider the fact that it is far cheaper to brew your own coffee at home, but more and more people are frequenting shops which sell coffee at a much higher per unit cost. Obviously people are going for the experience. The main issue with bookstores is that the per unit cost of a book is higher than even a fancy drink at most coffee shops.

  • Paul

    According to the B&N website, their store at the Opry Mills Mall is “temporarily closed”. That mall was extensively flooded in May 2010 and has still not reopened (and may never do so.)

  • Neil

    Somewhat related: Should I read State of Wonder?

  • Steve Sailer

    I’ve seen these kinds of claims about cities before. Last month I read that there were no bookstores in Miami, but a couple of minutes online found a few in Miami.

    The big, gorgeous Borders / Barnes & Noble-style chain bookstores have only been around for a couple of decades. I can recall when the first big chain bookstore opened in Chicago in perhaps the late 1980s or even early 1990s. It was a wonderful improvement over the awful little chain bookstores like B. Dalton that were found in malls before then. I can recall visiting New York in 1991 and being interested in visiting NYC’s famous large bookstores, like Strand, so perhaps there were no modern bookstores in Chicago as late as 1991.

    I don’t know whether America can continue to support the giant, upscale bookstores in high rent locations that have been such a pleasure of urbane living for the last 20 years, but certainly low rent bookstores will survive into the middle of the 21st Century.

  • Steve Sailer

    What’s amazing is how many magazines are still printed. I was looking at the magazine rack in a Barnes & Noble and the number of magazines just goes on and on.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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