Downtown McKinney's one bookstore, an independent shop called The Book Gallery, was open for 20 years before it closed last week.
Tucked away on North Tennessee Street, the store was usually filled with antique first-edition books, its owner sitting at a desk, paper in hand, with a black schnauzer named Abby at his feet. But this Tuesday, it was filled with boxes piled high, and the shelves were being sold.
The shop’s owner, Jim Parker, was taping boxes together and giving directions for shipment. As some of his last customers walked in to peruse the store, he welcomed them. But the mood wasn’t jolly.
“You can blame it on Amazon if you want to. People are not reading books,” Parker says. “They’re going to fade out in the next 50 years.”
It’s no secret that bookstores are dying. According to statista.com, the number of bookstores in the U.S. went from about 38,000 in 2004 to approximately 28,000 in 2012. That number is expected to fall further in 2018. By the end of this year, only about 22,000 will remain.
Parker acknowledges that publishers are having to shut down operations or cut the number of books produced because people are reading digital versions instead of paper. Often, digital books are cheaper. And book culture has "been changing rapidly over the last few years,” Parker says.
He originally opened the shop because he had a lot of books in his personal collection.
“I wanted a store where I could sell them,” Parker says. “I had first-edition Hemingways, etc.”
Parker says he's had people come into the store, see a century-old Shakespeare and look up a cheaper version on Amazon. His passion and frustration are evident.
Parker’s wife, Dee, on the other hand, says the store had a good run.
“It’s time,” she says. Her husband recently turned 80.
When the couple set up shop in a century-old building in McKinney Square, most of the neighbors were antique stores or shops selling candy and coffee. Now, the square is home to a bustling restaurant scene, which includes Dallas favorites such as Emporium Pies and the award-winning restaurant Harvest.
Parker said he was shipping most of the books in the store to some of the last antique book shops he knows of in the area.
Although Dallas has seen a resurgence of independent bookstores within city limits, like The Wild Detectives and Interabang Books, but Parker is not hopeful for the future of bookstores and book culture.
“People can just start buying books,” he says. “But they’re not going to.”
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