In a famous passage in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” a novel that Book World used to sell, a character is asked how he went bust. “Two ways,” he answers. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
That more or less mirrors what happened to Book World and other bookstore chains.
A few years ago, e-books were widely assumed to be driving the physical book — and the physical bookstore — to extinction. Instead, e-book sales leveled off, and the physical book has retained much of its appeal.
But readers are increasingly ordering those books online, getting them delivered with their clothes and peanut butter and diapers. Bookstore sales were $684 million in October, the Census Bureau said this month, off 4.6 percent from a year earlier and down 39 percent from a decade ago.