Nashville might seem like an archetype of the death-of-the-bookstore-everywhere narrative, but its story turns out to be different. The cashier who checked me out at the Brentwood store, Nancy DeVille, had transferred from the Nashville location when it closed, and she said both outlets were constantly packed with regulars drawn to the sight, feel, and smell of books. David Beddow, a supervisor at the Nashville store from 2005 to 2008, remembered costumed crowds snaking around the corner for the release of the latest Harry Potter. He said revenue there had actually increased during his tenure, from $5.5 million to around $7 million a year.

Despite rising online book sales and digital downloads and the Great Recession, bookstores in the area were profitable—right up until they closed. Even Davis-Kidd, locally owned until the Joseph-Beth Booksellers chain purchased it in 1997, had been solvent, undone not by the collapse of the local market but by the bankruptcy of the parent company. (The local Barnes & Noble, at the Opry Mills mall, was closed after a 2010 flood.) Nashville lost its bookstores not because people there had abandoned physical books and retailers. For the most part, it lost them remotely, at the corporate level.