How one buys a book is important to me, as you might have guessed by reading my blog entries. The featured image is a photograph of one of my favorite bookstores in Paris, France–Village Voice Bookshop–now closed unfortunately. I spent many many hours in that bookstore between 1997 and 2004.
How do you buy books? When you want a specific title or author, how do you go about it?
If I want something specific, I go online. I might try calling a bookstore, or if I happen to be near one I might stop. Mostly, and from experience, most bookstores do not carry what I want specifically.
The internet is now my big box store. I haven’t stopped at a large national big box store for years, other than Half Price.
What I want in a bookstore is a knowledgeable owner / manager with a passionate staff of employees. Big box retail employees don’t want to talk to me, even if they are passionate about what they sell.
More is not necessarily better.
A small but well curated selection is much more valuable to me than thousands of square feet of bookshelf that has to be filled with titles, any title, as long as they fit the section denomination: Dog Grooming, Christian Science–I know, an oxymoron–Sci-Fi, Business Finance, Literature, and Vegan Cooking… or whatever. If it doesn’t fit neatly somewhere, it won’t be given shelf space.
A store like Brazos, for example, carries anywhere from 14K to 16K titles, all of them carefully curated by the manager and the employees… that smaller store becomes much more valuable to me as a customer than the massive store. Whoever is behind the counter has a good clue to what’s in the store, and they can educate me and help me discover new authors, rediscover old ones, discover new genres, and find something I wouldn’t have thought of by myself no matter how many hours I would have spent online searching.
Online bookstores serve a completely different need for me. I buy lots of books online. But almost always when I already have a very good clue as to what I’m looking for.
Overall, I prefer the small privately owned brick and mortar, where I’ll talk either directly with the owner or a passionate employee. In Austin, those stores are Malvern Books and Book People, in Houston, those stores are Brazos and Wired Up for new books, and KaBoom Books for second hand books.
What’s your favorite bookstore? Why? Where is it at? Why do you shop there?
What would be a cool new way for you to buy books, or to discover new titles and their authors?
Do you shop at big box retail for books?
Peace & Love
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