Thursday, September 15, 2011

Just a little book world vent

No this isn't about agents.  Or publishers.  Or editors.  Or even bookstores.  This little vent is brought to you today by people.  Yep. People.  Specifically people who don't get it.  Perhaps you need a little background.  This past summer I acquired a job as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble (or as they like to say we are nooksellers).  I love my job. I love the people I work with.  I love the company I work for.  I love exciting people about books and seeing them smile when I hand them a book they've been looking for.  I even love helping people figure out how to operate their Nooks or helping them with a problem with their Nooks.  I leave work smiling.  I haven't had a job like this in ages.

I don't work because I have to.  I have this job so we have extra spending, play and vacation money.  It's our fun account.  So I don't need the job, but I enjoy the joy and I am enjoying the fact that because I've been working our family is getting to go to Disney World in 31 days (yes I have an app for that on my phone).  The store has been very slow since school started back.  We are down to bare bones.  People's shifts are being slashed left and right in order to try to make payroll.  There are others at the store who do rely on this job to make ends meet.  My hours have been cut in half.  I went from having a lovely 24 hour work week to a 12 hour work week. 

I'm sure you are thinking to yourself, "But you said this wasn't about bookstores."  It isn't.  It's still about people. You see, people come in and they need a book today for school or work or church or whatever.  We don't have it in stock.  It's either a more rare book that we don't normally carry in our stores or it is a popular book that we have run out of.  I explain that we don't have it, but we can order it.  Almost 75% of the time the answer I get is, "That's OK.  I'll order it on Amazon.  It's cheaper."  Except it isn't.  People forget about the shipping and handling charges that can make it as expensive if not more than ordering it from us.  And every book they buy online is one less book they are purchasing from a brick and mortar store which brings us one step closer to closing our doors and going the way of Borders. 

What is it worth to you to have a brick and mortar store?  Do you like going there and having the ability to sit in the cafe and read a book or browse a magazine?  Do you like the immediacy of going home with a book?  Do you like the atmosphere and the friendly helpful employees?  Do you like the music and DVD collection that has music and movies that you can't get anywhere else in town?  If the answer to that is yes, then is it worth it to pay a few more dollars to keep that resource open to you? 

Every time someone says they are going to purchase a book from Amazon (which I really find quite bold as I would never say to a store worker's face that I was going to go to another place to purchase something - I might go somewhere else, but I would never just say that one store is cheaper than another unless I knew they did price matching) that's one less hour that our store can afford to pay an employee.  That's one more employee who is going to have their hours cut again. 

See, it's more than just a book.  It's about people.  People are behind those books.  Not just the people who write and edit and publish them, but the people who also sell them. They rely on individuals supporting local bookstores to keep them in business.  While a company may be doing well at the corporate level, if a single store is floundering and not doing well, it's draining the company and will be closed.  And I would hate to lose my local Barnes and Noble.  There is nowhere else around for me to go.  I would lose my community and that's important to me.  I don't just go to the bookstore to work, I go there also to meet friends, browse books, find music and soak up words to put on paper. 

So the next time you go into your bookstore to purchase a book, buy it there.  Commit to your local bookstore.  Keep the books in your community and keep your booksellers (and nooksellers) employed.  You will be met with a smile and a thanks. 


  1. Sadly this isn't just the case in your country - exactly the same in UK. It's not just about being able to go to a bookshop and buy a book immediately, for me it's talking to the owner or member of staff and having them point me towards books I'd never thought of or didn't even know existed. It's that human interaction with someone who knows their business really well (because they love books!) and knows what is available or about to be published and can find out from talking to me what I'm interested in.

    It's not just about losing those bricks and mortar shops, it's losing the place where you know you can go and meet book experts who can open up new areas of the book world you'd otherwise never find.

  2. I desperately miss bookstores, and don't really understand why so many other people don't. I can spend hours in a bookstore, just looking at covers and reading copy and discovering authors I'd never heard of before but whose books I learn that I desperately need to read.

    I envy you your B&N and its community.