[The question on the future of the bookstore was put to me an hour ago--this is my reaction. It follows a post I made just yesterday on a related topic.]
I've owned a specialty rare/uncommon bookstore for the history of physics and math since 1985. From 1985-2002 it was a brick-and-mortar location that existed mostly in Georgetown, D.C., with a warehouse in Silver Spring, Maryland. At one point it may well have been among the largest/most complete stores of its kind in the U.S. Now it is entirely online, and even with that, most of the business is very direct offers to particular institutions. My online store was inaugurated in 1999; by 2000, I noticed that in-town customers were buying things of the store online, and foot traffic in the store began to decline. By the Spring of 2002, it was very clear that--so far as making sales were concerned--the walk-in store would not make economic sense, tomorrow. It seemed that the future arrived very quickly.
So it goes, as Mr. Vonnegut said. In Georgetown in the mid-1990's there were perhaps a dozen bookstores; after I left, in 2002, there were four, including a fine new bookshop, a Barnes and Noble, a donation shop, and nationally-regarded antiquarian shop. The donation shop and the two new bookstores remain, and I think a paperback shop as well. So far as I can determine, there are no walk-in antiquarian bookshops in Washington D.C.
The bookstore as devices and stores of memory may become a memory itself. Or perhaps--like libraries--they will survive with an old name but a new purpose. (And this not in the sense as brand names have survived, like say the Chevy Impala which underneath it all is still an automobile; not so I think for the bookstore.) But I think they will mostly, entirely, fade away, unless they're cobbled in with something else of associated value to give them a Dorian Gray-ish future life. Compared to what the bookstore has become since, say, 2000, it enjoyed a relatively unbroken run of success and sameness for the distribution of knowledge and as a potential storehouse of wisdom for some 440 years. Data distribution is now entirely different, generally bypassing the old method(s) of parsing information out into society.
Woodblock books put scribes out of business, moveable type did in the woodblock cutters; books in general were seen as a threat to storytellers and the theater; the telegraph was seen as a curse to letter writing and a bane to prolonged thought, as was the telephone that replaced the telegraph; radio threatened everything and was replaced by television, which taught people what "threat" really looked like. Then of course there came Pine and email, and the world wide web, and the easy/basically free access to incredible and vast sources of social interaction...and that is only the beginning of the communication "revolution".
Bookstores as stores selling books seems to me to be becoming a memory in itself--the good or bad of it is not yet the issue. The larger piece of this issue may well be how information is packaged and how it is found, with the subsequent issue of how the stuff is interpreted and analyzed as an end bit, which may well be determined by how it is found or accessed--and that may well be a major cause for concern.
And so the bookstore might come to pass like the Parisian water carrier. Even though this might have been the way to get the cleanest, brightest, sweetest, coldest water in all of Paris, it is hard to argue with just being able to go to a fountain or turn on a spigot.