Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What store am I in?

I used to be a constant visitor in a popular book store known as Barnes and Noble. Three or four times a week, I would find a reason to visit the store, get a tea, and peruse the isles of books in an ambient setting that was quiet, relaxing, and comfortable.

And then Padawan, bless his heart, gave me Rosebud, and I entered the world of and digital books. With books so easily available to me through the computer instantly and even directly through the wifi connection on Rosebud, I stopped going into the store to buy books. Oh, sure. Occasionally I'll peruse a Half Price Books when I'm in search of a book that's out of print, but for the most part my Barnes and Noble days were over.

I received Rosebud in September of 2010, so I haven't been in there since. But today there was a book Padawan wanted and so we stopped by the old haunt to pick it up.


The atmosphere that I had once enjoyed was gone.

Walking inside felt like I entered a Best Buy, not a book store. I was assaulted by a visual eyesore immediately: several tables upon which sat touch screen tables and Nooks. Row upon row of them. And only after walking through those could I find the books.

And we had to search for the section we needed. Politics and War Books and History had been moved.

Shoved insultingly into a corner in front of Children's Books.

Right next to six isles 

Children's toys.

In the middle of a book store. 

There is just so much wrong with that I'm not sure where to begin. 

First of all, you've got an entire section of the store closed off behind walls that you've dedicated specifically for children. If you must sell toys in a book store, then sell them where they belong: with the children's things behind the wall so I don't have to see, hear, or look at them.

Second, why the hell would you stick toys, a place crowded with children and noise and irritation, next to books that are clearly going to be read by adults who want to concentrate and hear their own thoughts.  Surely sticking toys next to teen fiction would have been the wiser solution.

But my biggest point here is this....why the hell are you selling toys in a book store to begin with? The occasional character toy? Sure. Educational toys? Maybe. Put some on an end cap or a small table. But six isles of toys? Maybe in your effort to corner the market in all things retail you have forgotten the most important rule of all: books are about knowledge, first and foremost. You are selling a lifestyle: intelligence, joy in the written word, a basic understand of and dedication to the English language. When you add toys to your books, what you're telling children is that books are cool, but toys are fun too. And what kid, aside from one like me, would want to read a book when there are six isles of toys to meander? You are sending a very wrong message.

And on top of that you, like Wal-Mart, have given parents a place to dump their loud, obnoxious children while they do other things without any fear of rebuke. They can just make noise and run around willy nilly because it's a toy section with noise so obviously the sssh, you noisy bastard, you're in a fucking book store doesn't apply anymore.

I am personally offended by this latest act of corporate greed. 

I will not set foot in a store that has the same feeling as a Wal-Mart. I simply will not do it. From now on, when I want a book, I'm going to order it from or Half Price without even checking to see if Barnes and Noble has it, because a book store should sell books, not Legos Star Wars.


  1. I think my experiences pretty much mirror your own. I now shop for books almost exclusively on-line.

  2. They have nobody to blame but themselves for this outcome.

  3. I was going to plaster the new blog project here, because I cannot do so over at AR, but then recall something about AR being "yours" and not for other people to read too (it was something like this is an old post of yours) anyway, my point, I think, is if you're interested I am sure you will figure out a way to ask for the link...and I would completely agree with you, if I were not one of those parents whose kid hangs out in said section while I try and find a book for myself...The part of me that refuses to become a parent says screw the little bastards, but it's generally overruled by Daddy.

  4. I haven't been to Barnes & Noble for a long time either, so I don't know if the implemented those kind of changes here. I know Borders went under. B & N is probably feeling the pinch too and this is their way of responding to it. I can imagine the board of directors sitting around and someone uttered the magic phrase "family friendly environment", which provokes a Pavlovian response of panting and drooling in any empty corporate shell in a suit, but which just means to people like you and I "ruining things by including shit for little kids."

  5. Yeah, Barnes and Noble basically doesn't exist anymore. I miss the quiet, calm atmosphere that I once called my "Happy Place". I used to LOVE going to that store, walking up and down the aisles, and perusing the books at my leisure in peace and quiet. Now, more than half of the shelves have been removed in favor of the Nook section. Was that fully necessary? I really don't think so. Sigh... Now I have to track down and corner an employee just to find a single book. Everything is all messed up and turned around in that store. Now it just gives me a headache, rather than being an enjoyable experience.

  6. Scott, well when you say it like that you make it sound like I own it...I just don't want to share it with everyone I know. Safety precaution, you know. You do not seriously leave your child unattended in a toy isle while you shop you?

    Bryan, in a pinch they still could have shoved it behind that huge wall that separates kiddy land from the rest of the world. Right next to History, though? History! It's just insulting.

    Candice, corner an employee is right. You try getting one to hold still long enough to ask, Why are all of these toys here? This is a bookstore!

  7. Hmmm, I'm suddenly curious to see this appalling metamorphosis for myself. The image of SIX isles of toys sounds like quite a horrific sight to behold. I imagine the shelves ransacked and the toys flung all over the place. If they aren't that way yet, give them a month.

    (Think of the poor bastards that have to work there. They signed on to work in a relaxed atmosphere with books, coffee, and soft jazz. And now the place is turning into Toys R Us before their very eyes.)

  8. Frighteningly enough, it was 1984 when Egon Spengler prophesied that "Print is dead."

    Sadly it seems that paper and ink are indeed on their way out of the picture. The only actual bookstores that will survive the coming apocalypse will be selling used copies. And since the newer generation of books are no longer printed on quality paper, those will rapidly disappear as well.

  9. "You are selling a lifestyle: intelligence, joy in the written word, a basic understand of and dedication to the English language."

    I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It's the business model that won us all over: a place where we could come in, sink into a chair, and escape; where we could sip a cup of coffee, wander through aisles and page through journals with cream-colored pages; a store that I could NEVER walk out of without buying at least three books. It was the ultimate temptation.

  10. It is sad. They seem to keep making bad decisions lately. They are pimping the Nook everywhere. It costs more than the Kindle. As a better product, maybe it should, but with less books to access, maybe it shouldn't. They then pulled all the physical books of authors that don't have the ebook available with them. You can't find hundreds of authors in their store at all now, just because B&N doesn't carry them for this reason. It doesn't make sense. They lose money on this one. I'm thinking of pulling my ebooks from them permanently and backing amazon all the way.

  11. Maybe it still depends on the store. For sure, some B&N's have always been of higher quality than the others. My hometown store only has a small section for Nook, the toys and gifts (which definitely are a max of 4 aisles) are next to the cafe area and the humor section. The rest of the store is appropriately organized and still has the quiet subdued atmosphere we find so calming. Here in the KC area my favorite B&N is the one on Country Club Plaza because it's 3 levels. Where I shop is up top and it's only books and so nice and quiet. Anyway, I still like the store, but I haven't encountered one like yours...

  12. I think you probably have to go to the independent booksellers to get the atmosphere you want. But get it quickly, cause they're probably on the way out, too.

  13. 6 isles!!! That is incredibly distressing. I will not stand for this. The bookstore back home has toys, but they are rightly placed in the children's section…and are mostly relevant to the books they are next to.

    I dread the day my bookstore looks like this…… >:(

  14. *Sigh* Alas, this stupid reply button on my blog doesn't work. Useless, isn't it? So you're stuck with my laundry list of replies all at once at the bottom. Here we go!

    Bryan, there were toys on the floor. I'd love to take a picture for you, but that would require going back in and I've already sworn off ever going in there again. Not for love or money.

    Rev, print is not dead! It is still very much alive! One day we will no longer have the internet and printed books will save us all. Unless we go into a world like Fahrenheit 451, in which case I'm moving to another planet.

    Nicki, I know! It was like a perfect place for hours of enjoyment, and you knew you'd find exactly what you needed inside. But then they ruined it. Like corporations ruin everything. If they were so hard up for money why didn't they at least try discounting their books? I mean, isn't that why most people go elsewhere? They don't like paying retail! (I have no problem with paying retail for my books. I have a problem with toys in a bookstore.)

    Charlie, I actually don't particularly care for the Nook. It's just not as nice looking as Rosebud, and Rosebud has no problems to complain of. She is an efficient, pleasant way to read. And since you've just explained to me what they did, now it makes sense that they suddenly had so much room for toys. They stopped carrying a bunch of authors!

    Ms. Jenna, you have a bigger B&N, I think. We have larger ones, but I always like this small one because it's close to me and it's always been quiet and relaxing. Not so much anymore. I could go to one of the big, three level stores downtown, but I'm afraid I'll have to walk through an entire LEVEL of toys, and that's just worse.

    Brent, all hail Half Price Books. My go to place for all books. If they don't have it, inevitably they know which location does. And they have a MASSIVE D&D section, which was a very big part of my later teenage years.

    Lex, that was my point. I told our cashier that I didn't understand why the toys weren't in the children's section and her answer was "they didn't have enough room for all of them." Half of the store is sectioned off with a wall for children! Half! And they couldn't find ROOM? I dread the day other bookstores think this is a stroke of's a terrible way to live.


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