Is it the end of the independent bookstore?

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First aired on The Current (3/31/2014)

Toronto recently lost The World's Biggest Book Store, The Cookbook Store and the Annex location of Book City. Hull's Books and anarchist bookshop Mondragon in Winnipeg closed too. Bently Books in Cochrane, Alberta, closed its doors last week. And in Calgary, Words Worth shut its doors earlier this week.

Despite this seemingly endless stream of bookstore shut-downs, it appears a few are bucking the trend. For example, Woozles in Halifax is Canada's oldest independently owned children's bookstore. And Ben McNally Books in Toronto thrives in the city's financial district. Some booksellers, like Michael Bumsted, who runs the Whodunit Mystery bookstore in Winnipeg, thinks bookstores are here to stay.

"Independent book stores are important because they provide the community with an access point for specialty knowledge," Bumstead said to The Current's Anna-Maria Tremonti. "We probably have the largest collection of translated northern European crime fiction in the city and we can tell you more about the books that we have -- what's good, what's not -- than somebody who has to run a more generalized institution."

Fran Donker, owner of Toronto's Book City, thinks this might not be enough. Neighbourhoods where bookstores traditionally thrived, like the Annex, are rapidly changing. As a result, rents go up and bookstores simply can't meet the new neighbourhood demands. But the bigger issue has been how the internet is changing how people read and buy books. "The internet is making our lives very, very, very difficult," Donker said. "There is no level playing field any competitive bookseller can survive the onslaught."

Are independent bookstores doomed? Or do they just need to evolve?