My love of bookstores has been frequently cited in this old blog of mine. I love nothing better than hanging out for a while, discovering new books, new authors, and re-visiting old favorites, maybe flipping through a magazine or two. If there was a way to accurately add up all the time I have spent in bookstores over my lifetime, I’m sure I would be shocked at the total.
Or maybe not.
On any given day, if I have a choice, I opt for an independent book seller. One of my favorites is The Strand in Manhattan. I could spend hours there. And have. My friend’s newish bookstore in Spring Green, Wisconsin is another favorite. Some day, if I ever get to Portland OR, I imagine I will immediately go to Powell’s.
But in my neck of the woods, save for a couple of teeny-tiny independent book shops, the only sizable store is Barnes & Noble. There is a modestly sized B & N near Target. There are a couple of bigger stores across the river. The one I usually head to is the modest-sized one because I usually combine errands to save gas.
On Sunday morning, I drove southward to hit Lowe’s, Target and Barnes & Noble. There were several new books I wanted to explore. (I’m on the most frugal of budgets so I rarely buy unless I know the book is worth the expense.) And it really struck me as I wandered through the store just how much it has changed. As you enter the store, there is the usual humongous display of Nooks. To the right, there is the CD/DVD section. And the magazine section. In the back is the café. On the far left are the calendars and notebooks and candles and whatever. Just beyond that is the children’s section. And next to that are games, gifts, educational toys for children and a whole bunch of stuff that I wouldn’t categorize as a book and that have been added fairly recently. This section takes up a huge amount of retail space. And sandwiched in between all of that? Books.
Every time I go in there, I am increasingly astonished at how few actual books there are. I wanted to look for some books on writing – that section is gone. The decor section is appallingly sparse. Plays, classics? Less and less. Many, many books that should be a part of the standard inventory are missing. The space allotted for books keeps shrinking.
I’m sorry? I thought Barnes & Noble was a bookstore.
I’m aware of the struggle bookstores, even huge chains, have in their fight against the Amazon juggernaut. I can only imagine these ‘additions’ are due to some marketing research that says “Books aren’t enough! You have to give them more or they won’t come around!” Every business is fighting to stay relevant and in the black.
But, come on.
When I go to a bookstore, I’d actually like to look at books. Yes, the café is nice, the little gifts are nice, being able to buy a CD is nice, but I am there for the books. Isn’t that what a bookstore is for? Books? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left that store in frustration because I couldn’t find a book I wanted. Or two. Or three. It makes me mad.
In a perfect world, I would be able to hop on the subway and go to The Strand anytime I want to. But, since Manhattan is about an hour and a half away from my home, that is not going to happen. And Amazon? Fine for ordering a book I absolutely know I want. However, most of the time I don’t know that absolutely, so I want to pick the book up, leaf through it, see what is between the covers. I don’t have the funds to simply order a bunch of books online. And besides, isn’t it much more satisfying to actually see the book in person?
Sigh. I’m sure someone at Barnes & Noble could logically explain their marketing strategy. And I would nod in understanding.
But then I would respond, “Yes, but where are the books?”
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