The Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center mall has a lonely distinction: It’s the last mass-market bookstore in a city once known for its literary sensibility. College bookstores and a few neighborhood independents remain; but all the other big downtown stores, most recently the Borders outlets on Boylston Street and in Downtown Crossing, have disappeared.
Yesterday, the store was packed with customers, all registers humming, lines snaking back through cases of greeting cards and stocking stuffers. It was too late to order a book online and have it delivered by Christmas, so Barnes and Noble was the only refuge for last-minute shoppers. But this particular store hasn’t had to worry much about e-commerce competition. Tourists and businesspeople are its bread and butter, and there are loyal customers in the surrounding neighborhoods; indeed, the brisk excitement in the children’s section and among adults grabbing the latest Tom Clancy and Patricia Cornwell novels was as great as in any previous year.