When I was going to college, I worked in bookstores. The first one was an itty, bitty local store. I then graduated up to Crown Books, and into management there. My next book job was at Media Play, which (when it opened, at least) had a full book, video and computer program section (and probably others that I no longer remember.
Even still, I can still remember the first Barnes and Noble book store. I know! I felt like… Finally! Here were people who understood me. I was in graduate school, working at Media Play, and still it took my breath away.
Since then, I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with B&N. Because while they understand the love of books, they still suck in 2 respects. (Please keep in mind that I am ONLY speaking of my local store).
- They have people who do not know their alphabet shelving books. It’s a relatively simple process, people. It is so frustrating to have the temptation to take down a shelf and re-shelve all the books in the right order while in a store. Or even worse—I shouldn’t have to pocket a book you have 4 copies of! If you have 4 copies, get it cover out! PLEASE!
- The Science Fiction and Fantasy section sucks. If a new novel comes out, how about stocking the previous books in a series? They only seem to stock X amount of any given author. Carol Berg is one of my favorites, but I don’t really care for her current series. She has much stronger work in her backlist, but they have maybe one title at a time. Anne Bishop, Lynn Flewelling and others are not kept at the levels they need to be. Romance is the same way—Eloisa James has a book called “Pleasure for Pleasure”, and I look for it EVERY BLASTED TIME I GO IN. They have the other books in the series. But not this book. And if it has sold out each and every time, maybe B&N should order in more than 1 copy at a time. (Please don’t bother telling me that I can get it online or on my Nook— I hate my nook and it’s the principle of the thing now.)
Now, there are some really bright spots. They poached one of my Borders’ Boys. Borders was great because they loved books and could make actual recommendations. The local Barnes and Nobles seems to be going more that way: I’ve actually had discussions with some of the workers about books. Before, I’d get blank stares if I asked if they had heard anything about a book. (Really? You work in a book store and you’ve heard NOTHING about this book that is number 1 on the NYT list? Huh.)
People who sell books should love books. Or at least like them. I know it’s a really snobbish thing, and I know everyone is trying to save money. But trust me on this. All those little girls running around reading Twilight and all those other books? They will grow up at some point. And if we want to nurture their love of reading, we need to give them something more than the paranormal romances that are so prolific right now. Because some will want to continue on with that, and some will want to expand their horizons.
Broadening those horizons is good for all of us in the book world. Readers, writers, publishers and bookstores.