2/23/11

Borders bankruptcy sending customers fleeing to indies? Doubt it.

I've blogged about my antipathy towards independent bookstores before. And the recent tweets on Twitter.com encouraging everyone whose local Borders are closing to choose indies have evoked a Pavlovian response in me.

Instant irritation with a "No Effin Way" close behind.

Even though my "local" Borders is 75 miles away. Even though I only shop there 4 or 5 times a year. Even though that store is staying open (for now). I am—almost irrationally—angry that indies seem to be gleefully celebrating the toppling of the big box chain. And I am all the more determined not to shop at an independent bookstore.

Indies have, by and large, created a culture of literary elitism that by its very definition limits its market. And, at least in my experience, they rarely carry what I read. Want proof? Take a look at the bestseller lists of regional bookseller associations. It's littered with literary fiction, mysteries, non-fiction. No romance. So I'm not about to seek out an indie bookstore (often located out of the way) just to have them order in books I'd like to read since they can't be bothered to carry them in stock and then have the salespeople sneer at me when I stop by to pick up my order. I will just transfer my book buying budget even further onto the internet. Or shift a greater percentage to ebooks. Or just shop at Barnes and Noble.

And, at least amongst romance readers, it's pretty clear I'm not alone. Not alone in experiencing sneering booksellers. Not alone in finding a hostile retail environment in independent bookstores. And not alone in scoffing at suggestions that I transfer my Borders book budget to a segment of bookstores that treats me and my fellow romances readers with disdain.

Borders bankruptcy is bad for readers. Romance readers in particular. And it is anything but positive news for indies. Even if they mistakenly think that they have something to gain here. They'd gain a lot more by reaching out to romance readers the way Borders does. By carrying books I want to read. By encouraging a love of ALL books, not just those they deem intellectually worthy.

5 comments:

  1. Word for word sister. Preach it! I would happily throw my money at independents if they deemed my reading material of choice "worthy." And since most of them don't? Yeah, I'll keep throwing my dollars at the evil big box stores, grocery store chains and the Internet.

    I do have one independent in my area that does cater heavily to romance readers, but they only carry a small selection of new titles. Their bread and butter? Yep, used. I can't buy all the new books I want there - but they usually have at least a couple on my shopping list :)

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  2. @Wendy,

    I was a little startled to realize this last month that I bought most of my new releases at Safeway. Not online, but at the grocery store! The big box stores get my money when I get to a town that has one :)

    And our one bookstore is both new/used, but has a single bay of books titled "Romance/Sexuality." Gives you a pretty good indication of the rep romance books have there.

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  3. Janet W: Flipping Jaysus sistah: I agree with you SO MUCH! I'm thrilled my Borders is staying open: it's still the only Real Life destination (except for Safeway haha) with new books that I want to buy.

    I'm driving to Petaluma tomorrow -- an hour away -- to see the ladies and sip European Shipping Chocolate but also to spend my $177 dollars at my fave moneymaking UBS: Petaluma Paperbacks. I wouldn't shop at my local indie on a dare these days and I've spent plenty there in the past. They don't stock what I want and they don't care. Fine. Whatever. Just don't try to guilt me out with the Brick and Mortar song and dance if you're going to be snobby on me. Amazon Books and Borders and UBSs on both sides of the Canadian/American border keep me happy!

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  4. Here's a thought -- why don't independent booksellers have someone hunting out the very best romance novels? Okay, so you can't pick & choose with Harlequin Enterprises' series, but pretty much everyone else will sell you certain books in quantities that make sense to your inventory and space limits.

    So imagine if your independent bookseller had a small but select assortment of romances that were actually well written, non-derivative, and fun. I'd shop at that store. I'd buy books from that store. I'd actively make plans to stop by and see what they were recommending this week.

    And how hard this would be? Hire someone who knows, reads, and loves romances. Give her (or him) a budget, access to the Internet, and a subscription to Publishers Weekly and Romantic Times. In other words: not hard at all.

    Get some word of mouth on the Internet and people will find you.

    Easy-peasy.

    Assuming independent bookstores don't have their collective heads up their collective "lit-fic" arses...

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  5. @Janet,

    The "shop local" spiel just kills me. Stock what I read, can the attitude, and maybe I would shop locally.

    @Magdalen,

    I think people who own/work at indies don't read romance. Because if they did, they'd stock it. Some blame the profit margin/strip policy on MMPBS, but with so many titles being pubbed in Trade Paperback now, that excuse is getting weak.

    Indies just can't seem to get it through their heads that romance buyers bring in the $. They get hung up on popular misconceptions about the genre.

    And romance sells. Even in my podunk town. Because I can see the empty pockets in the book display at Safeway. ;)

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