Blogs by H. L. Cherryholmes
Brick & Mortar
9/12/2008 2:39:40 PM
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This is an apt topic to follow my last one about Print-On-Demand. Last week before taking a trip I decided to get a book to read on the plane. Thereís a large book retailer near where I live, a huge store, three floors filled with booksóand magazines, videos and DVDs, music and a coffee shopóso I went there. Right at the entrance there was a table filled with the latest novels to have come out in paperback. I was looking for nothing in particular, but I did want a paperback (easier to schlep around) so I stopped at the table. There was a mound of books to choose from and as I stood there looking at potential entertainment I realized that while there were several piles there were only five novels displayed. Five. The table could have had fifteen different novels yet there were only five, each in three separate stacks. This is nothing new, of course. Some books are better promoted than other books, something to do with deals the bookstore makes with publishers. I donít know what those deals are except that it does a disservice to the people who buy books.
Maybe itís always been this way and I just donít remember. What I do remember is going into a bookstore and finding several such tables and racks filled with dozens of different paperback books. Not dozens of stacks of five titles but dozens of different titles. Iíve always been one of those people who first looks at a title and then at the cover art. Sometimes itís the cover art that gets my attention first. Thatís the reason I always liked those display tables and racks. You could see the book.
Okay, back to the day I was searching for something to read. Not interested in the five titles aggressively shoved in my face as I walked into the store, I went up a couple of floors where, presumably, there would be many more choices. There were rows and rows of books separated in genres: Science Fiction and Fantasy (two genres that really should have rows dedicated to each separately instead of being shelved together), Mystery, Romance, Young Adult, Graphic Novels, and finally General and Literary Fiction. As I wondered around, my head tilted at an uncomfortable 45 degree angle and unsure of what I felt like reading, I noticed that a few of the books on the shelves were placed so that the cover faced out while most only had the spine showing. I wondered if, like the display table downstairs, the publishers of the books with the cover visible had a deal with the bookstore. Could be or it could be that there was just available space on the shelves for some of the books to face outward.
While I appreciated being able to see a few book covers none of them interested me, so I continued to slowly walk down the aisle with my head tilted as if I had some sort of inner ear problem. Several times I had to stop and stretch my neck to stave off the unavoidable kink. Either it was easier to read sideways when I was a kid or my neck muscles were less prone to strain. Probably the latter, because Iíve always found that reading spines really only worked if you already knew what book or author you were looking for. It really doesnít do much good if youíre only browsing.
Frustrated that Iíd already spent forty minutes wandering the store and all I had to show for it was a crick in my neck, I knew that there were books that Iíd been interested in at some point but couldnít recall the titles. Some of them were books Iíd read reviews of when they were in hardback and decided to wait until they were in the cheaper paperback form and some were books Iíd read about while browsing on the Internet.
Ah ha! I said to myself, startling an old woman next to me. I remembered that I had an Amazon.com wish list. Sometimes when I have nothing better to do (or, as is more likely, when Iím procrastinating) Iíll go online and browse through the books listed on Amazon. Not only do you get to see the cover, often one book will lead you to another book. If that doesnít work, thereís always the ďMy RecommendationsĒ page or lists compiled by readers to peruse. If I find something of interest, Iíll add it to my wish list, just to keep track of it.
So, there I was in the bookstore when I remembered that I had a list of books I wanted to read. Iím fortunate enough to have a device that I can connect to the web without the aid of my computer, so I used it to access the list and voilŗ I knew what books to look for.
All that leads me to the point Iím trying to make: Itís so much easier to browse an online bookstore than it is the brick and mortar kind. Yes, there is the disadvantage of having to pay a shipping fee, but when you shop online you can find books that you may never have even seen in a B&M. And Iím not talking about P.O.D. books, either. There are hundreds of books that donít get the sort of publicity or have publishers that promote the way the five paperbacks on that front table had. Online you can read reviews, check out what other people recommend, or just randomly flip about and find something new on your own. You can do this all in the comfort of your own home or school or office (really, though, you should be working not wasting valuable company time).
Bookstores arenít what they used to be (hence the DVDS and CDs and coffee shops) and theyíre not as fun to visitóat least not if youíre looking to buy a book.
Oh, and if any of my friends are wondering what gifts to give me, for goodness sake I have a wish list.
More Blogs by H. L. Cherryholmes
Brick & Mortar - Friday, September 12, 2008
P.O.D. - Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Idea - Sunday, July 13, 2008
Storytelling - Tuesday, June 24, 2008