When the Big Box Bookstores like Chapters and Indigo splashed onto the scene several years ago, taking out a good number of smaller independents in the process, one of the attractive things about them was an integrated café. In the case of Chapters, this was almost always a Starbucks (a novelty in Canada at the time) and Indigo had its own in-house café brand. It all seemed so civilized and exotic: drop by the store, order a caffe latte, browse the stacks, find a couple of interesting books or magazines, curl up at a table in the café to preview them, and buy what you found interesting.
In a book retailing world where it was unusual to have chairs in the store, this was revolutionary.
I noticed the first crack in this system when Chapters in Moncton posted handwritten “you must pay for all purchases before entering Starbucks” signs at the Starbucks entrance. This was a year ago. This morning, as I sit in the same Chapters, I’m surrounded by large, formal looking “Please note that unpurchased Chapters merchandise is not permitted in Starbucks.” So, in other words, the deal’s off.
Of course Chapters is free to set their draconian policies as they like. It’s a shame that they had to rip the heart out of the independent bookselling world in the process.