Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

why do you go to a bookstore?

since Borders is turning itself into some kind of strange experiment in brick and mortar shopping experiences, I thought now is a great time to ask this question of readers:

Why do you go to a bookstore?

I tell you this: when I want a specific book, I order it. When I want to browse, and come to some kind of decision and discover something new, I go to a bookstore.

I see the model proposed by Borders as a reason never to return to Borders stores. They will not give room for browsing.

Am I alone? Am I the only one who shivers at the thought of a store where books are stocked akin to cereal?

I know books are a difficult business, like comic books, but how often do you go to a store for the pleasure of browsing, and how much of what it is a joy to find would we lose if our store shelves were packed with just the best-sellers?

Tell me. Talk. Rant. Whatever.


Anonymous said...

Bingo. You nailed it. I can get books overnight from Amazon if I have something specific in mind, but often I'll just want to go spend my lunch hour wandering and browsing through the various stacks and sections, hoping a gem catches my eye. And the choices are few and far between where I am. There are no indie's near my work and Books A Million is closest. I have to "stretch" lunch if I want to get to B&N or Borders.

Charles said...

Alas, ordering (for a feasible amount) isn't really an option here in the Philippines. Whether I'm ordering or browsing a book, my final destination ends up being the bookstore.

It used to be worse here when all the books on the shelves were shrinkwrapped...

Pony English said...

So let me get this straight: Going to the book store is going to be like going to the book section in H-E-B, Target or even Wallmart?
Where is the fun in finding awesome stories you never knew about? I don't care about Breaking Dawn, Dan Brown or Harry Potter. But I'm a pretty patient fellow and am rarely in need of a quick book fix. I'll consult my three bookstores here and if they don't have it on hand, I'll just order it myself. But I'd rather have that sensation of smelling a new book the day I want it. Killing time in a book store normally reminds me of the books I wanted to read and sends me on a quest to find them. I can't just study there, there is too much to read!Wandering equals impulse buying. But I guess I have to find my library card.

Post Script: I got my button in. It's awesome. Thanks.

J m mcdermott said...

Charles, that sounds rough! No wonder you review so aggressively! Fans need to do all they can to promote the field in such a scenario!

A few best-selling authors I enjoy quite a lot. A very, very small few. Usually mass appeal means watered-down content.

That's why this is such a dangerous decision for the field. If the solid midlisters who take chances and make art with their prose aren't stocked, how will browsers find them?

Much like my recent post about why Christian Fiction sections are the work of the devil, I suspect that this will only promote watery, inoffensive prose and gently nip away at all the great strides groundbreaking authors have made in the field since the "New Wave" of the 1970s.

I never thought I'd ever wish evil upon any bookstore... Okay, I don't wish them evil. I just wish they fail with this business-model, and go back to stocking a diversity of titles like a good bookstore ought to do.