My hometown is growing, seemingly bursting at the seams. Most people here seem to think that’s great while some of us are appalled at the callous way developers swap trees for retail shops. I’d like to raise the question “don’t we have enough bloody stores” but no one would listen. Somehow they missed asking my opinion in the matter, as if that’s a surprise.
I am, however, thrilled that we have a new Borders in our midst. Barnes & Noble was already here and recently moved into new, bigger digs, so adding another book store (even if a mega one) is a good thing in my book. Competition among book stores battling for my disposable book money: gotta love it. And lucky for them my usual rationalization of buying more books each month than I should will help their all-important bottom lines. I never know when I might get snowed in or something, and I wouldn’t want to run out of fresh reading material, would I?
Between those two mega stores I’ve always preferred Borders since they tend to carry more books outside the mainstream hot sellers. I can’t remember the last time Barnes & Noble actually had a book I went in looking for, yet most of the time Borders will have my elusive title. Those ever-helpful book elves at Barnes & Noble do offer to order a copy for me, but they still don’t get it: why order through them, wait longer and pay more than I would ordering myself via the Internet…even if I order from B&N online! And lest you think I never buy books from B&N, (which I sometimes wish were true), the casual browsing and serendipitous discoveries usual do me in. Damn. If I’d only learn to listen to my inner miser: “Put that book down. Step away from that bookshelf, and put one foot in front of the other towards the front door.” Sigh.
No mini-essay about either of these money magnets would be complete without mentioning their cafes. My hat tips to the marketing genius who knew that miserly book buyers could still have their purses plucked by offering overpriced sweets, coffees, and teas. Not to mention that everyone tends to grab something to read while nibbling and sipping said tasties, and I’ve lost count how many times I did that very thing and ended up taking home the very same book I “test read” in the cafe. Double sigh.
I do miss the mom and pop book stores, that nearly extinct species which offered personalized service and the good feelings from putting money into the pockets of local business people and not some headless corporation and their stockholders. But they don’t exist around here any more, driven out of existence by the mega-monsters and their compliant consumers. Sadly, the only remaining fringe of individualistic booksellers is the used or secondary book markets, and even there the legions of small shops are dwindling and the mega-store concept is slowly moving in. For the reader this trend is generally a good thing since it means more books readily available. But the overall trend of megaliths ruling the retail world is a frightening one. And how I managed to plow through a post on retail without mentioning Wal-Mart is amazing. So far that superstore has yet to offer books in any serious way, but I think it’s just a matter of time before that happens. Now that’s a scary thought that sends me running to the Border’s Cafe for the solace of some peanut butter cheesecake. With a latte, of course.