No Bookstores in Abbotsford

A common complaint about living in Abbotsford is that there are no good bookstores. We have four, but your choice is Coles in Seven Oaks, Hemingway’s used bookstore, the House of James Christian bookstore, and Food for Thought if crystals and tarot cards are your thing.

Sure, it’s an eclectic selection, but we’re a city of over 125,000 people. We deserve some kind of ostentatious literary presence in our town. I watch every big box development with baited breath. Maybe the shell of Linens & Things will be resurrected as a Chapters. Perhaps that giant red thing will be- aw, it’s just a Shopper’s Drugmart. It’s like we’re the town that doesn’t like to read.

To make matters worse, I think we’ve just passed the point where big box bookstores are profitable. Most of the books I buy are marketed and purchased entirely online. I see an interview or a video from the author and I just sashay down to the Chapters website where everything is (almost) always in stock and cheaper than the brick and mortar store.

Is the idle pleasure of browsing a bookstore doomed to antiquity?

Having an actual physical store is different enough from online retail that we should have them well into the future. The question is how to monetize real life stores. I think we’ll see something akin to the hyper-competitive retail market I saw in Tokyo. Every store had to compete with hundreds just like it in the area. There was nothing they wouldn’t do to try and get customers to spend time shopping. There were streetside barkers, brightly coloured (and colourfully written) deal signs, animated displays, and don’t get me started with the cross-promotion! Who would have thought of using a maid cafe to market transformable cell-phone robot toys? Whatever form brick and mortar retail takes, the common factor is going to be the passion of the salespeople. As much as I hate using that word, if you are going to sling books like a machine, you might as well get replaced by one.

4 thoughts on “No Bookstores in Abbotsford

  1. Jon Strocel

    With Barnes and Noble going private (before they go bankrupt) and Chapters making more money selling greeting cards than books, the brick and mortar bookstore is done, put a fork in it. Especially now that paper is going to go the way of the buggy whip.

  2. James Post author

    The advent of television and video tape wasn’t enough to kill the visceral experience of going out to a theatre to watch a movie. I think the same thing will happen with brick and mortar retail. There are enough out there people willing to keep shopping alive, just not in its current form. One new form of monetization is tryvertising, where members pay a fee to get in to the store and just pick up free samples of more expensive products. The concept was originated in Harajuku, and already there are plans to open up franchises in North America.

  3. Amber

    You might be interested to know that The Book Man has opened up a branch in Abbotsford! We have been in business for 21 years as of September 2011 in the city of Chilliwack, and have won multiple awards for our environmental, employment and business model standards. We are excited about our new location in The Little Oak Mall, and while it’s much smaller (1600 square feet) in comparison to our Chilliwack store (5000 square feet) our databases are linked and we’re happy to transfer books for our valued customers.

    Our bookstore cat Gatsby awaits your visit, as do we. We have a Kids’ Club to encourage readers ages 12 in their literary adventures, have a Canine Companion Club for customers with four legged friends (or birds, ferrets, etc) and a well developed website at

    We’re proud to join the bookselling community in Abbotsford, and look forward to serving its citizens! Have a poke around our site, and let us know how we can help you!

  4. Guest

    While I do think that there are some people who will prefer e-books, and ordering on-line, I think that there is a huge portion of the population that prefers the physicality of a book. I know I do! Visiting a bookstore is such a relaxing, and fun experience; especially when you take your kids with you!

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