Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Bookstore Chat....

I got reamed a bit on Paul Constant's post, so I just HAD to respond, (no, I don't know when to quit and yes, I have a big mouth...DUH!)

oh, give me a fuckin' break.

yes, I loooooove good indie bookstores but this notion that every town and neighborhood in America was once dotted with hardwood floored, exposed brick, indirectly lit, cinnamon/patchouli scented, cheery little indie bookstores lovingly stocked and run by bookloving hippies with grey ponytails and happy librarian-type ladies is so much bullshit. For one thing, those kinds of stores have ALWAYS been the exception, not the norm and 90% of them came into existence in the late 60's and early 70's founded by book loving, arty/litty, hippie types; they're a fairly recent thing. You found/find them in college towns, arty resort towns, and bohemian neighborhoods in large cities but not in the vast majority of America. The greatest number of indie booksellers in this country were small glorified newstands/stationary/card stores...they had a long wall of magazines, a small room or area of kid lit (maybe), quite a lot of space devoted to cards and gifts and racks and racks of mass-market, popular paperbacks...there wasn't much devoted to non-fiction or serious literature and most of those stores were very suspicious of hardbacks and trade sized books. When you've been reading about the 200 or 300 or 400 indie bookstores that close every year for the last 25 years, the majority of the stores closing, were those kinds of stores, and yes, it is sad when ANY kind of bookstore closes, but these weren't the kinds of bookstores that y'all revere. And yes, the big guys are largely responsible for their demise which is sad but does it make the big guys evil by their mere presence? No, it doesn't. The advent of the chains meant that millions of people had access to a much wider variety of books than ever before, especially people that live outside of liberal, arty areas and the urban core. That's a good thing. The big stores like B&N and Borders that really started to grow in the 90's exposed people to an even larger inventory; they have history sections that are larger than many neighborhood indie stores! Does that mean I don't still shop at indie stores? Of course not. I love having a bookstore in my neighborhood, locally owned and operated by an owner who loves books. But if Michael at BaileyCoy doesn't have a book I really, really want and I know I can get that book downtown at Borders, I'm going to go buy it at Borders and not wait the two weeks it would take if I ordered it at BaileyCoy. And for folks in the sticks; the Pocatellos and Topekas and Amarillos of the world, their local big bookseller is the only option they have and to be honest, probably the best option they've ever had.

(as for the big chains having a negative impact on publishing, that's a different kettle of stinky fish...but most chains can have some kind of negative impact on their suppliers which leads to standardization and blandness in everything from fashion to home decor...)

(and as for the loving attentions of indie bookstore clerks, that's also a lot of horseshit...for every nice, knowledgible, helpful clerk I've met 4 that were either irritating, hipster jerks or idiots that didn't know what they were in most retail retailing is NOT a sacred brother/sisterhood)

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