Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bookstore Slobs, Part 2

The two comments to yesterday's post about the bookstore slobs I see in my local B&N every time I go there got me to thinking a bit more on the subject.

I have to ask myself if I feel differently about a student using B&N as a library than I do about some shopper too cheap to pull his wallet out of his pocket and buy a book or two. I worked with a fellow for about twenty years who used to use every lunch hour reading books in the bookstore across the street from our office. He would read three or four books a month that way, hiding the books somewhere deep in the shelves until he was done with them. Never, not one single time, did I know him to buy a book - from anywhere. But then I see students there on weekends and in the evenings making use of the technical and scholarly books in B&N and that doesn't bother me so much.

I realize how expensive books are for college students and, after all, this store has little tables placed around the store for the use of "customers," not to display books. Sometimes I see whole study groups in the store using one single text as part of their school preparation. B&N, at least my local one, seems to encourage this kind of thing.

Take a look at this letter from a Georgia resident lamenting the closing of his local Barnes & Noble store:
A month ago I heard sad news for our community that the Barnes & Noble bookstore located in Fayetteville is about to close.

I remember when I first moved to Fayetteville and I did not have a job, friends and family, so I used to go frequently to the bookstore and spent many hours there, lost in the reading of different kinds of books, eating a delicious desert, with the help of such as wonderful workers who were ready to help every customer.

I was so excited about living so close to Barnes & Noble that I decided to get the membership card to buy books. I got many dictionaries and books, which helped me to improve my vocabulary.

Then I began working and on my days off I decided to spend one hour in the store reading motivational books and other kinds of magazines. Doing the same activity during the past two years has helped me in the process of improving my English, since my first language is not English.

During the times that I spent in the store I noticed that a lot of young people were there reading books, magazines and eating a delicious dessert as well. I think that this class of business should remain open. This book store is something positive for our Fayetteville community.

I was thinking what can I do to impede the closing of Barnes & Noble, so I thought I do not have the money to allow for the store to remain open but I have feelings, thoughts, ideas, knowledge which I have gained during my entire life from books that I had read, some of them found in that precious store. I decided to write this letter to make everybody think: What can I do to stop Barnes & Noble from closing?
My first reaction is to tell the guy that if folks like him would have just spent a few bucks on books, at least as much as they spent on deserts, maybe this wouldn't be happening. But I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong to feel that way. Maybe the bookstores are providing a community service to students in exchange for a little good will.

Don't miss the comments from Janda and Martha. Both speak from bookstore clerking experience and what they have to say is not pretty, especially Martha's definition of "soiled."


  1. Yeah, it seems pretty obvious to me that if those people had the $7 to spend every day on dessert that they could just as well have spent it on books.

    Seriously. Do people not understand the difference between a for-profit business and a public library?

    The next time my husband and I want a nice evening out, we'll go to a fancy department store, where I will put on a nice outfit from the Ralph Lauren section. I'll leave my clothes in the dressing room. Then I'll meet him in the store cafe. We'll eat, then I'll go back and change into my own clothes.

  2. Maybe I'm cold-hearted, but the study people annoyed me too. They expected us to do their research for them, were rude when we didn't have the text books in stock (most B&Ns don't carry textbooks as a general rule), and left huge messes behind them. Some would even bring their coffee or ice cream from other stores in the strip.

    And I talked to teenagers who had never even been to a library, despite 2 of them in our town.

  3. I don't even really have sympathy for students using and not buying - that's what the library is for, and if the library can't get it for you, with some effort you can usually buy things a lot cheaper used. If you're already willing to share a text in a bookstore, then you should be willing to get together as a group, each chip in a bit, and buy a used book online.

    Can you imagine if someone ever decided that they did want to buy one of the books that a study group had been using? After all of that, it may not look quite like a new book anymore, and, if it's that expensive a book, it better look brand new.

  4. Let me know when you guys take that special night out, Factotum...I want to be there with a video camera to catch all the action. :-)

  5. Good points again, Annie. I suppose this whole thing started because the big box bookstores were trying to kill off the little indie stores that were serving coffee and providing overstuffed chairs for leisure it's biting them on their butts.

  6. That's the gripe that started me on this whole topic, Library Girl...a B&N manager would not budge on the price of a very "used" book a couple of weeks ago. It was the only copy in the store and I was willing to buy it at 50% off; he decided he would rather keep it on the shelves forever. Chump.

  7. Just went and read that post - ick. You'd think that a place in the business of selling new books would want their stock to look good. The only places I could think of that could maybe make things work would be places that sell a combination of used and new books, and, even then, I would think they wouldn't want their new books to start looking used.

  8. Sam, if the book was that bad, he damaged it out after you left rather than returning it to the shelf. Also, he can give discounts on rare instances, but he wouldn't have been able to give one that big. Store Manager is still a pawn in a company as big as B&N.

  9. It does boggle my mind, Library Girl...suppose someone has weighed all the pros and cons of the situation and decided this was good for business. I do find that hard to figure, though.

  10. Annie, if he had just explained that his hands were tied, I would have thought nothing of it...smirking at me and shaking his head was not real productive, though. I haven't been back into that store in two weeks, preferring to drive an extra 5 miles in the other direction to a different B&N store.

  11. I'm sorry, Sam. That manager gives B&N a bad name.