Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easy as ABC--or Not

I love bookstores. Of course, I do. I am a writer and before that I was a reader. The first bookstore I loved was called The Bookmark. It was privately owned and located next door to Parisian. (That was before Parisian moved from Gateway Shopping Center to the mall, where it met its demise. That's another story and one I could easily get started on, but I will resist.)

Anyway, my mother would give me money and let me go to the Bookmark while she tried on 300 dresses and 500 pairs of shoes in Parisian. I loved the smell, the order, the quiet, but most of all, the possibilities. The Bookmark, like most small bookstores, is long gone. By the time it went to the great bookstore in the sky, there was a Bookland in the mall. It was bigger and better organized and I transferred my love easily. By the time it died, I had a mega store in my town and a different mega store in the next city over.

The megastores remain and loving them is easy because there are books and coffee. Well, mostly, it's easy. I am having a little trouble. Three days after Christmas The Lady Most Likely by Judith Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway was released. I was ready. I was excited. I had my gift card. I went to the mega store in my town. I looked in the new books. No book. I looked in romances under each of the authors' names. No book. I looked everywhere it should have been and a few places it had no business being and, still, no book. Two days later, I was in the next city over. I went through the same drill at the other megastore and still, no book. Two days after that, I went back to the mega store in my town and—well, you get the picture. I finally got it at Target, which I did not want to do. I want my bookstores to stay in business so I want to buy from them.

I know it's on the tip of your tongue. "Jean, did you ask for help?"

I did not. You see, this has happened before and I have asked. It has never done one bit of good. And in spite of the fact that I was a librarian for 23 years, graduated from college, and matriculated quite successfully through the first grade, I just cannot seem to make heads or tails for the alphabet these days. I mean, they must have changed it. Or maybe I slept though the part where aliens abducted me and took to an alternate universe where T occurs right in the middle of the C's.

And today I went to the mega store in my town to take a gaze at the January category romances. There's a new Superromace with a quarterback for a hero that I am all aquiver about. No luck. The December books are still out.

So what did I do? I came home and pointed and clicked my way to what I want. The book will be on my doorstep Tuesday. I realize that isn't doing one thing to help me keep a bookstore in my town but, more and more, it seems, they aren't doing much to supply my demand.

So what's the answer? Where do you get your books?


  1. I must confess that I get most of my books from Amazon. I enjoy going to bookstores but I can't always find what I'm looking for.

    Love the picture, Jean.

  2. Funny you should post this. Unfortunately we don't have a nice bookstore in my town so I am forced to shop for some of the new releases at WalMart or Kmart. Actually our Kmart stays on top of it so I have good luck finding the category releases there.

    After our lovely visit on Saturday I went over to the big bookstore there to pick up a copy of the book Mary recommended called Eat That Frog. It was late so I walked in and went straight to the counter to ask if they had it before spending 30 minutes searching for something they didn't have. I asked the teenager at the counter if they had the book in stock and the first thing he asked me was if I had looked for it. Well...no.. but I did look up at the sign that stated in big bold letters 'Information' and then back at him. He typed in the name and told me he 'thought' they had one in stock and it would be in the business section and it was a yellow book..if they had it. Ok, by this time my mouth had dropped open but I risked one more question by asking him where the 'business' section was located. He waved his hand in the direction of the back side of the store which indicated anywhere from the children's section to the bathroom. I rolled my eyes and decided I could probably find it a lot quicker than he could. I found the book in the 'Motivatinal' section which was on a different row and not in any sort of alphabetical order at all. But it was yellow! :-D

  3. Hysterical, Sherry! Well, actually, more sad than funny. I hate to see service such as that. It certainly doesn't help the bookstore situation any. This case sounds much the same as teenagers selling fast food, but I won't launch into that here...

  4. It used to be that book people worked in book stores. Now it's just another job, like working at McDonald's or BK or some cookie cutter store in the mall. It attracts apathetic and under educated teenagers who wouldn't know Faulkner from Freud (or, I daresay, those names AT ALL).

    I mostly shop online, though I do hit the BAM in Madison on occasion -- and I have to say, they are pretty good in there. I think it's the manager who fosters that environment, but I've always had knowledgeable help when I've asked. They've even offered me things I didn't know about -- like the time I was buying a hard cover of a book and the young man told me he had trade paperbacks that were cheaper but hadn't been put out yet.

    You'd think coffee and books would be a perfect pairing. And they are, except when the kid making the coffee also sells the books and knows more about how to make the drink than what sections the bookstore contains.

    I never thought I'd say it, but I miss the days of the mall bookstore. When I worked in the mall, I would go to the Waldenbooks on my breaks and spend all my time there (as well as a lot of money). My dream to write romance was born in a Waldenbooks. I bought tons of paperbacks, and I cleaned out their section for writers.

    I don't know how to get the local stores to step up the service. I feel like an interloper when I go to the big B&N and they have two copies of my book and sneer at me because it's a category romance novel. As if I don't actually read other books and might not be a potential customer.

    I think Amazon is killing the chains. It might be deserved, but I sure will be sad when it happens and there's no place to go and browse the shelves any longer.

  5. Yes, it was a sad experience but it's the only time that has happened..so far. But you're right Lynn, this kid didn't look like he knew what a book was. It was just a paycheck for him. I like going to BAM on Airport Rd. There is an older gentleman that has been there for several years. He is so courteous and you can tell he enjoys his work. He will take you to the section you are looking for and actually find the book for you! He needs a raise! :-D

    Crystal, ah yes. The fast-food teenage employee. That's a whole different blog-game!

  6. Very interesting blog, Jean. Since I was never a Librarian, I guess I look at bookstores a bit differently. I find them a fascinating place of knowledge and wish I could just place my fingers on a book so that I could automatically read them. Too many books, never enough time to read.

    Crystal, I've rarely ordered books from Amazon but I do order DVD's from them. I must say, you can get a wider selection there where they are also cheaper than at the BIG bookstores.

    Sherry, that's horrible! I do need to try and remember to pick up Eat That Frog though.

    Lynn, there was something special about Waldenbooks, wasn't there? I remember going there whenever I was at the mall too. Though the store was smaller, Waldenbooks always had a very nice selection, especially of writing books. ;)

    I guess I'm an oddity... I love going to B&N and I have never had any trouble getting help from someone. Once I asked the gentleman who worked there if they sold any HQN Historicals, knowing full well that they didn't. He walked with me to the category section and scoured the selection, then turned to me and said, "we should be selling them." Wouldn't you know it, the next time I went to the BIG B&N, they had rearranged the whole display and what did I find? Shining like a star were four HQN Historicals in a row. Now you might say, this might have been a coincidence, but I doubt it. I had been going to find HQN Historicals there for nearly a year before I said something. Now, every month, I know I can go inside the store and select what I want from the month's choices. And the ultimate reason why? Because I asked.

    Never forget the power of talking with a manager. If one of the employees isn't doing their job, say so. Working in retail has opened my eyes to the power I wield within my hands as a consumer. :D

  7. Like most readers my age I loved the mall bookstore and smaller independent bookstores of our youth. When we were on vacation my parents would always find a bookstore where we were visiting and we would go visit it. My sister HATED it so that was also a bonus! I loved it and always bought a book to read on the drive home.

    Today I ususally shop at BAM because I love the tactile experience of buying a book. The feel of the books on the shelves, the smell of the new pages, the look of a brand new book in my hand!

    I know this means that I might not get a book the same week in is released but I love the shopping experience.

  8. So sorry I did not reply yesterday. The Guy was working in our shared space and I thought I would wait until after the game. Fell asleep. I guess I thought I was on snow day leave too!

    I need to try the BAM in Madison. In reading over my post, I noticed that I easily abandoned my love of stores for something easier and better.

    Online is definitely easier. I'm just not convinced it's better I guess I need to use the stores when I can and enjoy the browsing and the coffee. I just can't expect them to fill me needs.

  9. My dad and I used to go to the bookstores together all the time. When I grew up and he came to visit me in the states we'd hit B&N and Borders together. I have noticed that a lot of the romances that are debut novels, single title, aren't in the romance section at all so I'm forced to buy them online. And with the NOOK I now own I can order the books and download them immediately on my E-reader. Even easier. I have a coffee maker at home and an e-reader, but I love going to the bookstore and browsing the titles. It reminds me of happy days with my dad.