This article touches on something I have thought a lot about; retailers like WalMart, Costco, etc. are the country's leading brick and mortar booksellers (sad, isn't it? Amazon is #1 overall). With megasellers like these leading the way, the titles you see for sale in the store are going to be safe sellers (read: boring) like Nora Roberts, Stephen King, Danielle Steele, etc. If we're lucky, we might even see cutting-edge writing from the vaunted vault of Oprah's Book Club.
The author goes on to argue that it is the job, no, the responsibility of the independents to maintain variety. I couldn't agree more, and would add that it's the responsibility of the used independents to keep the old classics alive, as well as give birth to new classics.
One sticking point in this article:
What about the “convenience” of ordering books over the Internet? Unless you order your fresh fruit over the Web, meet your friends and lovers via Web sites, and would trust your medicines to an on-line pharmacy, you are treating your intellectual life with less respect than you treat your other appetites and needs. What about the book that’s shelved next to the one you were actually looking for — what if that other book is the one to change your life?
I see what she's saying, but it is silly to think shopping online is the wrong way to buy books. Brick and mortars and online sellers work together very nicely - a customer will shop at their local, see a few titles they like, and order online. They usually save a few dollars in the process. Yes, I realize the B&M missed a sale, but the customer bought a book, and hopefully read it. The transaction is keeping the tradition alive, and I am willing to bet the customer picked up a few things while browsing the aisles as well. Bookselling is a totally different enterprise these days. Online booksellers are not going away, and it is up to the B&Ms to adapt.
Nearly every big online bookseller (Amazon, Abebooks, Alibris, etc) suggest other titles you might like based on what you have purchased and what you have looked at.