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I saw Mark Morris’ “King Arthur” in Berkeley recently, and while I had mixed feelings about the show I felt I had to own the music immediately, so I went today to my local Tower Records and Books store. Under normal circumstances I would have probably found several different versions of the music, could compare and contrast cast, packaging, and price, and made my choice, but the store is being liquidated along with all the other Tower stores. This did not come as a huge shock. We lost the Berkeley Tower Classical Annex store years ago, but the one in San Francisco was still around last time I checked, and you could browse among a wide selection with a knowledgeable staff. The Tower Books store was smaller than the local megastores but still managed to have a better selection of magazines, poetry, and dance and was the only remaining bookstore in the area with a wide selection of regional Sunday papers, including the city edition of The New York Times. This loyal customer will miss you, Tower Records.


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My family went to Tower last night, after we'd seen the "going out of business" signs. I'm very sad about this -- the comments in the linked story mentioned the serendipity of browsing through a store that is absent from online shopping, and I absolutely agree. I will miss the expertise of the classical staff at the Mercer Street store in Seattle, but mostly I will miss the feeling of walking into a place where everyone is interested in the same thing I am.

Bought the Steve Reich box set, in honor of his 70th birthday, and in honor of what we will soon be missing.

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Anthony Tommasini comments on the demise of Tower in The New York Times.


The loss of Tower Records will have a severe impact on niche markets like classical music. According to one industry insider’s estimate, Tower Records alone accounted for up to 50 percent of sales in the specialty genres.

Older record collectors have memories of wonderful, quirky independent stores run by managers who were passionate, if opinionated, about the music they sold.

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I realize that times change, and this was not an unexpected development, but I still feel sad. It leaves a real void – yes, you can shop online, but there was no other store around that filled this particular niche.

I hadn't seen this, and I find it very depressing. There would have to be a concerted effort to prevent everything from being reduced to online, and it's unlikely. When shopping is completely reduced to an online activity, there is no reason to think that the things shopped for won't have changed imperceptibly into very different things themselves, i.e., they themselves will have an 'online quality' to them. At this point, shopping for old things on eBay and elsewhere, there is still the illusion that we are getting the old things, but just in a more convenient exchange process, but that will change over time, and probably very rapidly.

A few years ago, I already found it difficult to believe that there were 3 Mom's 'n' Pop's drugstores still in the West Village, what with the plethora of Rite-Aid, Duane Reade, and CVS. Well, one of these closed the other day, and the sign even describes it as having always been a Duane Reade store, which in this case actually only means it is being annexed by the next-door pre-existing Duane Reade. So maybe Bigelow's DrugStore and Steinway Piano will last another 10 years as 'prestige establishments' until even those are abandoned in favour of online forms of 'life.'

I used Tower for years when it was still full of only VHS in the Video Store. I still use VHS, but nobody else I know does.

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