Print Story on bookstores
By clock (Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 10:11:44 PM EST) (all tags)
A little whining about bookstores.  I don't know why.

When I was a kid, the closest thing we had to a bookstore that we were near with any regularity was the Waldenbooks in the mall.  We would go in every now and again and my brother, who refused to learn how to read, would get a Green Lantern comic and an Incredible Hulk in the hopes that this would trick him into reading.  Green super heroes were the rage with him and I have to admit that it worked.  As for me, I might get a book of some kind, but there wasn't a really big selection and it kind of sucked to look for books there.  I did get my first edition D&D box set there and was totally and completely stoked over it.  But I don't remember any books leaping off of the shelves and into my hands.

Most of the great books I got were at library sales.  My mom went to those like it was religion.  The books were extra fun because they had that plastic cover and the labels on the spine.  Occasionally they would even have the little pocket inside the cover and a stamped up card showing due dates from decades before.  There were a couple of used book stores we would make it out to once in a while, but not too often.  It's hard work, wrangling two overly active boys.

And then they put in a Borders about 45 minutes from our house.  It was amazing.  We would go and I would see books about composers and music theory.  All of the glorious stuff that I wanted to know so very badly was covering the shelves.  In the days before the web, I would go into a bookstore not knowing what I wanted and come out having spent any money that I had - sometimes with a little extra funding from mom when she could swing it.  Or if I went with my dad, we'd drop $50 easy on books.  I wonder if there's a correlation between parental guilt post-divorce and literacy in their children.  Anyway... when I could drive, I would go to that place all the time.  Bookstores and record stores.  Every Friday night.  Those were great times.  My buddy and I would go check out the new CDs and music magazines at the record shop and then hit the bookstore just to see if anything by anyone we knew had come out.  We'd get some greasy burgers and then head back to my mom's house to rock out until the wee hours of the morning when we would cue up some Lou Reed on the record player and pass out.  Seriously.  That was the high life.

I digress.

In college I was always running all over the greater Cleveland area to some library or other.  Lots of time was spent in bookstores and most of the "spare" money I had went to books.  The thing about the library or most of the bookstores was that books would just leap off of the shelves and into my hands.  Again, in those pre-web days it was an adventure.  My backpack was always filled to capacity with books.  Hell but it was heavy.  I never left my dorm without at least 5 or 6 texts.

Even when I lived on the frozen prairie I had a bookstore that would easily swipe $50 to $100 out of each paycheck.  Man, that place.  They had great coffee and a selection of books that was carefully curated for smart people in exile.  That's a totally different topic, but there's a reason that the Iowa workshop produces so many award winning writers.  You go there to write and there's nothing else to do so you actually, ya know, write.  The bookstore reflects that.  So many gems.  So many things that I would have had a tough time hearing about - even in the days of the web.

And now?  Now I go to the B&N with my family every couple of weeks and am assaulted by the latest set of bullshit biographies or political non-analysis.  Maybe a new series about vampires or zombies "But wait! There's a twist! They don't crave brains or blood! They crave MARGARITAS!" hogging the front tables.  I wander the anemic music (book) section or the intellectual vacant biographies.  Nothing.  There's never anything.  At most I buy a coffee and a chocolate milk - maybe a magazine - and we wander home.

I know that there are real bookstores left in the world.  What I wouldn't give to live in Brooklyn if only to visit CRwM's wife's bookstore.  I actually follow the store's blog as a form of self-flagellation.  I would love to talk to a bookseller who isn't pimping Steig Larson or whatever shit is about to be made into a movie.

I miss seeing a title on a shelf and knowing that I have to read it right now.  My substitute is a pile of book blogs and husi.  I follow what folks read around here pretty carefully.  I copy links into a file on my iPhone that gets pushed to dropbox and I can peruse it any time and snag it for my nook or whatever.  It's a perfectly viable way to get what I need, but it's not the most exciting way.  And I feel like that, more than eReaders or anything else, is what makes me sad about bookstores today.  I want for there to be a place for that kind of thing.  A physical location where the topic is set and expectations can be fulfilled.  I don't think that should be weird, but in the world of the iPad and constant network connections, what can I reasonably expect?

Stacky, The Cuteness, and I went to B&N today while The Dude was out and about with the inlaws.  We wandered for a few minutes.  I'm off and I wanted a copy of The Paris Review.  Fuck off.  I have a little time to read and I like it.  But it wasn't on the shelf.  Nothing was on the shelf.  There was nothing at all.  And it was kind of sad.

But then I snuggled with The Cuteness and forgot all about it.  Until now.

< There are those times | I thought the UK had no money? >
on bookstores | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I am reminded of by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 10:22:42 PM EST
the bookstore in one of the Dark Tower books.

Bookstores by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #2 Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 10:51:58 PM EST
The in-laws usually get me a Barnes and Nobles gift card for Christmas.  This year, I literally couldn't find anything and ended up buying a boardgame to play with the kid.

I think next year I will hint that an Amazon card would work better.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Leave the suburbs a little by theboz (4.00 / 2) #3 Fri Mar 18, 2011 at 11:11:42 PM EST
I've noticed the decline in quality of the big box bookstores as well, but it's because the things I am interested in apparently will not sell as well as the things stupid people want to read.  However, there are some good bookstores in Houston, such as Kaboom Books, but basically if you are hanging out anywhere outside of 610, you're limited to big box stores.  We tend to spend a lot of time lately going inside the loop to eat and hang out more and more.  I'm also getting pretty sick of the suburbs and the bland bullshit that goes along with it so I highly suggest hanging out inside the loop as a small respite.
- - - - -
That's what I always say about you, boz, you have a good memory for random facts about pussy. -- joh3n
You could be in Laredo, with NO bookstore. by ammoniacal (4.00 / 4) #4 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 01:07:08 AM EST

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

I remember Waldenbooks... by atreides (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 02:06:58 AM EST
When I was young, there was one near the grocery store so when my grandparents would shop, I would hit the bookstore. I especially remember the Waldenbooks Sci-Fi discount card. 35% off all sci-fi/fantasy. That was awesome! After a number of years, they started trying to get people to trade them back for a 20% off everything card. Fuck that!!! I used that card regularly for almost 10 years until I lost my wallet. :( What I wouldn't give to have that card back... Of course, I'm even sure where there is a Waldenbooks in Austin...

He sails from world to world in a flying tomb, serving gods who eat hope.

Not in Austin, not anywhere apparently by houser2112 (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 11:44:00 AM EST

"Since 2004, many Waldenbooks locations have been re-branded as "Borders Express" stores. Borders Group has also announced that it is downsizing the Waldenbooks chain to respond to the current competitive environment. As of January 2010, 182 stores had been closed."

[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by mellow teletubby (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 05:52:33 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by mellow teletubby

I moved to Boston in 1995 by ana (4.00 / 2) #7 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 08:24:54 AM EST
just about the time that Borders and B&N were opening superstores, but before all the university bookstores got B&Ned. There were a handful of used bookstores in Harvard Square, before the rents drove them out in favor of The Gap and American Apparel. I would scour the used bookstores on my lunch hour, once scoring a copy of a book on radiation hydrodynamics by one of my colleagues, which I'd been lusting for over the years but couldn't justify the expense, for $10 or something. I felt a little bad for George, losing a sale that way. Weekends I would sometimes drive over to US 1 in the next town and the strip mall with the local B&N in it, and lose myself in the photography or fiction sections. There wasn't really much there there, but there was some. Their cafe was a nice place to hang out for a while. But more often than not, I left the store sadder than I'd been when I arrived, so I stopped going.

Now, there's not much left in the Square (though there's one cool indy bookshop with a used section, plus the B&N version of the university bookstore). I rarely go in. I have a stack of books I'm not reading which seemed shiny when I was in the store. I got my glasses fixed, and a lamp over my favorite chair. So I do read some, but not as much as I once did. Maybe I need another burning passion in my life or something.

As you say, I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

i've always loved book stores by lm (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 09:21:11 AM EST
But I've also been fortunatel to always live in areas with decent independent or regional chain stores. In Cincinnati, there was the four story warehouse of used books that was called The Ohio Book Store, a few Half Price Books locations, a very nice regional chain (Joseph-Beth), various boutique hippyish stores on Short VIne and in Northside, etc.

And don't get me started on DC, home to some of the great stores (e.g. Daedalus in Columbia, MD) that used to send me catalogs that had me salivating when I lived in Ohio.

The sad thing is that I don't think I've intentionally made a trip to a decent book store in close to three years. I keep letting myself get distracted by other things.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Bookstores... by wiredog (4.00 / 1) #9 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 09:42:30 AM EST
When I was growing up we had Crown Books. A local chain that went national before the Haft Family Drama destroyed it. We also had Waldenbooks in the mall. A few local bookstores. And Hole In The Wall in Fall's Church. A used bookstore specializing in Sci Fi. Still there. Half my bookshelf, including most of the hardcovers, are from there. Still have B&N in the mall. Crown was replaced by "Books a Million" which is a discount bookstore with little depth. Or breadth.

OTOH, there's Gutenberg, B&N e-books, and Baen Books.

Earth First!
(We can strip mine the rest later.)

damnit by LilFlightTest (4.00 / 1) #10 Sat Mar 19, 2011 at 08:02:26 PM EST
you're making me want more cuteness, and now is a really bad time for that.
if de-virgination results in me being able to birth hammerhead sharks, SIGN ME UP!!! --misslake
that feeling you're missing by garlic (4.00 / 1) #11 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 10:09:36 AM EST
seems like you could get that if your local library had a coffee cart. Libraries are pretty fucking awesome.

There's a great bookstore... by Metatone (4.00 / 1) #12 Mon Mar 21, 2011 at 03:23:13 PM EST
here in Clerkenwell that opened around the time I moved here.

Q. who owns it is a great guy and a brilliant recommender for just about everyone - and he has The Paris Review.

Alas, since we're friends I get to hear how hard going it is... don't know if the shop is going to make it through the double dip... 

on bookstores | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback