Book Store Heaven


I have a bulletin board in the kitchen where I'm supposed to tack up fliers for upcoming events. I usually forget about the upcoming events and end up tacking up inspiring pictures from the paper. This picture of a book store in San Francisco is now up there. That turquoise is killing me.

I would love to check out the book stores in San Francisco. Hyde Park in Chicago also has excellent bookstores. Here, we just have El Boring Barnes and Noble. I wish there was more of a market for independent bookstores. The literary scene is completely dead around here.


9 thoughts on “Book Store Heaven

  1. We’ve lost two Barnes and Noble, plus the last decent independent (new) book store in the area. We did gain a Borders. There was a big article on it in yesterdays paper, written in the “Get off my lawn” style of somebody who just noticed that the Stones have been “classic rock” longer than the college kids have been alive.
    I feel literary because most mornings I drive right by the power plant that somebody told me Michael Chabon called “the Cloud Factory” in a novel.

  2. Here, we just have El Boring Barnes and Noble. I wish there was more of a market for independent bookstores.
    I sympathize, but also remember growing up in a smallish (but not tiny- around 100K people) city where there was a B. Dalton in the mall, an even crappier semi-independent new book store, and a few very sleepy used shops that had very little interest in turning over their inventory or bringing in and more books. It was a revelation when Book Star (eventually taken over by Barns and Noble, I think) came to town, and even more so when the Borders and Barns and Noble opened up. If anything, they greatly increased the “literary culture” of the town quite a bit. So, while they are not ideal, we shouldn’t forget that they are often much better than the plausible alternatives, and much better than what often existed before them.

  3. Except of course when they weren’t. In Baton Rouge, for example, the B&N was sited pretty darn close to the city’s best independent, which had enjoyed steady growth over nearly 20 years, even as the shopping center where it was located slowly declined. I don’t know whether the independent’s owner tried to get in to the new center where B&N went, but I can say with near certainty that he would not have had the capital to put in the kind of place that B&N put up. The independent went out of business within, I think, two years of B&N’s opening.
    I had the pleasure of working for one of the original “superstores”, Oxford Books, of Atlanta Georgia. Oxford’s ownership worked hard for the company’s eventual demise, with errors both strategic and tactical. But. When Borders and B&N came to Atlanta, they did not open up new markets. Instead, their first stores in the region were very close to Oxford’s; in one case on the same street about a quarter-mile away. It was predation pure and simple.
    NY publishers aided and abetted by giving the chains such deep discounts that they could sell some titles profitably at retail prices below what Oxford was paying wholesale. And publishers sometimes wonder what has happened to handselling, and to the networks of stores that could build bestsellers (e.g. Bridges of Madison County) by word of mouth? They regret being tied to what one or two key buyers are willing to order? That page was turned long ago.

  4. I suspect that the book side of Barnes and Noble is less profitable than the cafe, particularly on a per-square-foot basis. Here’s how we shop at B&N: I check out design books (and probably order on Amazon if I find something I like), I check out bargain stuff (might buy a calendar or blank book once a year), the kids play with train set in the kids’ area, my husband orders the Thomas item that the kid wants from Amazon on his phone while we’re there (it’s generally much cheaper than in the physical store), a kid might buy a stuffed animal with their own money, I buy a Kumon math workbook in store (it’s the same price as on Amazon), I look at some home magazines (possibly buying one if there are some ideas I like and haven’t seen elsewhere–not very likely), I get Christmas cards there once a year and the kids and I have a treat in the cafe. We don’t do all of that stuff every time, it’s more like one kid toy, one workbook and one cafe visit per outing. Barnes & Noble is the best bookstore available locally (including the college bookstore, AKA the school spirit t-shirt and sweatshirt zone), but it’s not really the books per se that we’re buying there. Barnes & Noble is more a cafe with toys that happens to have books in it. I suspect that habits like ours are widespread and have helped to kill MH’s Barnes & Nobles.
    In support of Matt, when I was a kid, the Waldenbooks at the mall two hours away was a VERY big deal. I rarely got a chance to go there, and I used to spend most of my dinner money there on track trips.

  5. Of course I don’t think that B&N and the like is perfect- it’s certainly not. And, there’s some reason to think it won’t even last much longer (my understanding is the Borders is dying, but that might have been a false alarm.) But there’s no social world w/o loss, and while B&N and the like hurt some local book stores (especially those not very nimble and unable to market their special skills), they (and Amazon, in turn) helped make many more books available to many more people than the local book stores would or could. Again, when I was growing up, in a not-tiny town, people would consider driving 6+ hours to go to Portland to go to Powells, for the chance to go to a decent book store. There’s no need to do that now, and while that’s bad for Powells, it’s good for the rest of us.

  6. and I used to spend most of my dinner money there on track trips.
    I missed the ‘p’ in the last word and figure you were looking for a system to use when playing the ponies.

  7. I have traditionally loved my local Borders for some things, like when I absolutely MUST HAVE the Aubrey-Maturin series #12 [for example] the moment I put down #11. And then I relied on local, smaller, funky places for browsing and picking up staff recommendations.
    And then I got a Kindle app for my Droid phone. Turns out, it’s even FASTER to get Aubrey-Maturin #12 downloaded onto your Kindle. Like, on the train, during my commute, with absolutely zero delay. Suddenly there’s much less reason for Border’s in my world. (And my book budget has gone way up; it’s just too tempting. I really have to figure out how to read library books on my Kindle app.)

  8. “(And my book budget has gone way up; it’s just too tempting. I really have to figure out how to read library books on my Kindle app.)”
    And that is why we don’t have any e-readers at our house.

  9. Amy P
    “(And my book budget has gone way up; it’s just too tempting. I really have to figure out how to read library books on my Kindle app.)”
    I figured this out on the iPhone/iPad last week. It was the highlight of my week (OK, maybe not quite, but up there). Our library loans books using a DRM protected ePub format. I can read them on the iPad using the Bluefire App. Unfortunately, I can’t download them directly to the mobile device (you have use the Overdrive DRM software to downlaod from the libarary, and then transfer them to the iPad using Bluefire). But, you can borrow library books electronically. It’s fabulous(and all legitimate — you just log in to the same adobe epud account on all the devices).
    I don’t have a Kindle, so I haven’t figured out if there’s some 3rd party solution to reading the library epubs on the kindle. The Nook can read them.
    I’ll have to admit that I’m missing a “buy it now” button on the books I borrow. There are some they’d convince me to buy that way (particularly craft & cook books, which I’ve taken to checking out from the library before buying whenever I can). But I guess the library isn’t in the business of selling books.

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