Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Demise of the mega-bookstore?

Barnes and Noble and Borders are both reporting troubling numbers. B&N seems to be holding on just barely, but Borders is closing yet more stores. I was talking to another writer friend of mine, and we had some interesting thoughts about why this might be happening, beyond the looming bugaboo of e-books.

I've always thought it strange that, even though young adult books are the fastest growing and most lucrative genre going right now, Barnes and Noble stores dedicate comparatively little space to this genre. Fiction for adults takes up easily more than three times the room, even though YA novels sell like hot cakes, and not just to the target audience. Lots of adults read YA too. Seems as though B&N isn't quite keeping up with the trends in the marketplace. What's more, they stock a very limited selection of YA novels, dedicating huge amounts of shelf space to best selling writers and very little to the well-reviewed midlisters. So a voracious reader might easily exhaust the selection at the local B&N and instead resort to ordering books online, or going to the library, where there is a wider selection of quality writing.

My friend also had a very interesting thought. She feels that the larger stores neglect regional needs. There are plenty of writers, like her and me, who are very well known in their own geographic region because we tend to do events near our homes to cut on travel costs. Word gets around about local novelists, and people go to their local bookstores looking for their books. But try to find one of our books at the local B&N or Borders and you can't. So all the benefit of the publicity we do regionally is lost on the megastores, and the slack is taken up by independent bookstores (and more power to them) as well as online sales. 

Ask any ten readers about the threat of e-books to the printed tome, and the majority will tell you they are too attached to the sensory experience of holding a book. The smell of printer's ink, the feel of the rough paper under our fingertips --they're part of the pleasure of reading. Perhaps these megastores should stop looking at the scary boogie man outside their doors, staring through their windows with digital eyes, and instead focus inwardly on improving how they go about peddling that ancient technological innovation: The good old book.



  1. Good post, Amy. You should be in charge of a revolution in shelving and redesigning bookstores!

  2. I completely agree with you. The mega-stores neglect YA completely. They only stock what they think will sell, which is bothersome. I tend to go to the library to fulfill my YA needs.