Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

‘You’ve Got Mail’: Independent v. Chain Bookstores

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pace chapter.

You’ve Got Mail premiered in 1998 and gave great insight into the phenomenon that would be rapidly occurring in the modern day, which is chain bookstores forcing independent bookstores out of business. You’ve Got Mail follows Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) who is the owner of Shop Around the Corner and Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) who is the owner of a large book superstore, Fox & Sons Books. Obviously, the romance between Kathleen and Joe, who fall in love with each other via anonymous email chat, is the driving force of the movie. However, the occupations of both Joe and Kathleen, one who owns a superstore and is pulling the independent store under because of its close proximity, speak to the larger culture of instant gratification. 

In the movie, Fox Books overshadows Shop Around the Corner because they have a cafe inside, a wider selection of books that expand beyond just children’s books and they have discounted prices. Well, this sentiment is true today in our culture. Chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million are putting more financial stress on independent bookstores that charge a higher price and may have less of a selection. However, and this is apparent in the movie as well, independent bookstores are more catered to individuals and have stronger ties to the community they are in. Whereas, chain bookstores or superstores have a layout or experience that is somewhat reminiscent of a production line. I mean, walking into a Barnes and Noble, they have similar tables laid out for display, the same trending books right in front, and the same layout by floor and genre. 

But now, although the movie didn’t foreshadow this aspect of online shopping culture, largely because it was ahead of its time, online shopping from places like Amazon threaten independent bookstores and even chain bookstores. The whole nature of walking into a store and browsing through the aisles endlessly, or sitting in a lounge chair to read for hours is at stake. The huge shift towards online shopping is crumbling in-person businesses. Some online storefronts have books that are now even cheaper than chain stores and can be shipped faster, no more cause for worry about the book you want or need not being in stock or on the shelves. Needless to say, as the movie suggests, these forced closures put people out of a job and consequently at a loss of income. So, watch You’ve Got Mail and then go shop at your local independent bookstore!

Ashley Geiser is the Editor-In-Chief/Co-Campus Correspondent for Her Campus at Pace. She oversees all the writers on the team, manages the overall responsibilities and duties of the editors, and publishes the final copy of all articles on the website. She likes to work one-on-one with the writers, helping them gain confidence in their work and hosting monthly editorial workshops to get everyone familiar with Her Campus guidelines and AP style. Beyond her work with Her Campus at Pace, she works as a tutor at the Writing Center for Pace University and serves as an editor for the University’s student magazine, 'Aphros.' Some of her poetry has appeared in Pace University’s 'Chroma' magazine and placed in the English Department Writing Awards. She is currently a senior studying for her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing, as well as working towards her master’s degree in Publishing at Pace University. Outside of her academic responsibilities, Ashley usually spends her time reading and writing all forms of poetry. She loves any type of romantic comedy movies, among her favorites are 'Made of Honor' and 'The Wedding Date.' She also enjoys baking; her favorite recipe is a chocolate chip mint cookie of her own design.