The Chicago Tribune reports that Prairie Avenue Bookshop, "the best architectural bookshop in the world," may be closing its doors on the first of September if owners Wilbert and Marilyn Hasbrouck do not find a buyer. My friend Brandon tipped me off to this a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to believe it then, and it's hard to believe now. Even with Amazon.com's discounts I thought of Prairie Avenue as a mainstay, due to its deep catalog, used books and rare titles, items harder to come by and appreciate online. The Trib points out the 10.25% sales tax, "people [who] would come to the bookshop with their notepad, make notes of what they wanted and then go buy it somewhere else," and $650,000 in two lines of credit. Depressing, to say the least.
[Outside Praire Avenue Bookshop at 418 S. Wabash | image source]
So if a new owner is found, one who is able to keep Prairie Avenue on its feet, how would that happen? By diversifying the selection, in effect moving it away from truly being a bookshop? From increasing its web presence, Wilbert's recommendation? Who knows, but this news does not bode well for other specialty bookstores, architecture or not. The writing on the wall is clear that books are a dying tool, pushed out by new technologies and a consumer base swept away by them. The death of bookstores is just one step in that unfortunate but eventual process.