Decoder Ring

Encore: ‘You’ve Got Mail’ Got It Wrong

Who’s afraid of… Barnes & Noble? The now quaint conflict that inspired the 1998 romantic comedy.


Episode Notes

(This episode originally aired in March 2020.)
The 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is about the brutal fight between a beloved indie bookstore, the Shop Around the Corner, and Fox Books, an obvious Barnes & Noble stand-in. On this episode of Decoder Ring we revisit the real-life conflict that inspired the movie and displaced independent booksellers on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. This conflict illustrates how, for a brief time, Barnes & Noble was a symbol of predatory capitalism, only to be usurped by the uniting force at the heart of the film: the internet.

Some of the voices in this episode include Delia Ephron, the co-screenwriter of You’ve Got Mail, the illustrator Brian Selznick, Laura J. Miller, author of Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption, Joel Fram, founder of Eeyore’s Books for Children, and Boris Kachka, book editor for the Los Angeles Times.

This podcast was written by Willa Paskin and produced by Benjamin Frisch and Cleo Levin was research assistant.

Thanks to Steve Geck, Maris Kreizman, Emma Straub, Jacob Bernstein, Gary Hoover, Peter Glassman and June Thomas.

Decoder Ring is produced by Willa Paskin and Katie Shepherd. Derek John is Slate’s Executive Producer of Narrative Podcasts. Merritt Jacob is Senior Technical Director.

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About the Show

In each episode, host Willa Paskin takes a cultural question, object, or habit; examines its history; and tries to figure out what it means and why it matters.

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