Nothing lasts forever.

Olsson’s Books appears to be in a bad way, suffering the double, or rather triple, whammy of of big-box competitors, online books sales and online music exchanges. They are getting killed by both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and no one buys CDs at stores anymore.

I moved out of Olsson’s territory in late 1994 when I moved to Reston, never to return further east. But through the early 1980s and until I left, I spent a decent amount of money at the Olsson’s in Old Town Alexandria and a couple locations in DC. Back then, if you wanted a book that was more academic than commercial, Olsson’s was the first place to check.

Living in Reston, I did a huge academic project from 1999-2001, and almost every single one of the dozens of books I procured for research were from either Amazon or Alibris. I don’t think I ever even considered a trip to Olsson’s – even though during college in the early 1980s that was where I bought the lion’s share of books I needed when doing research here at home. Forgot about the bookstore completely: sign of the times.

Next up, the Washington Times: This one truly pains me folks and I hate to be the person saying it. I have copies of this paper in my files from the first year of publication back in the mid 1980s, and I am proud to say I have been a full time subscriber basically since I could afford the simplest amenities of your typical blue-collar existence, which means from about 1995 on. Don’t ask.

I have probably read most copies of the Times, cover to cover, since 1993, and many, many issues in years prior to that (living in Florida most of the 1980s gives me some exemption from missing a few of those issues).

And I still read it cover to cover most days, which is good, because the recent redesign is so completely nonsensical that if I wanted to try to read it topically I’d be lost. The new organizational schema seems to have been designed by social psychologists or accountants, and I am betting on the latter.

Where you used to have the front section for “News” and editorials, like every other paper, then a local “Metropolitan” section which usually had “Business” tacked on, then “Sports” and then “Lifestyles/Arts/Food” (with the occasional weekend additions of “Show” and “Auto” and “Real Estate”), you now have an incomprehensible mish-mash. The front section is some national news, some international news, some local news, and some political news. The “World” section is more international news and also editorials. Then there is “Plugged In” which might be more political news, or business, or something else.

So if you want to find a particular story which not obviously front page material, you need to read the entire thing because it could be anywhere. I read the entire thing so that is ok with me, but it is a bad sign.

The other bad sign is a whole slew of the content is from AP and Reuters. This means you get the same liberal-ideology crap you get from every mainstream news outlet. You still get the excellent top level reporting from the Times’ key reporters, but much of the second-tier news is right off the wires.

The WashTimes has never had the resources of the Post, so none of the Times’ reader community would reasonably hold it to the same level of comprehensiveness. It is short on NASCAR, short on track and field, short on culture. But the Times has long been the key local paper for objective coverage of real news. Now that they are having to scale back on that, I think the end may be near. Jerry Seper is still worth the price of the subscription for me, but I think many readers upon reading AP’s take on the issues of the day will wonder why they need the Times when they can get that everywhere else.

I also think many readers upon reviewing the new Web site will wonder why the three layers of navigation bars across the top, which in my view is about two too many.

It’s tough times for newspapers, sad to see this once-excellent one on a downward spiral.