Deb Elise Is Into Chains

Barnes and NobleI love independent bookstores.  I do.  I support them, I stand behind them, I’m all for them.

However, with the downfall of Borders, and many people predicting a similar future for Barnes and Noble (unless their Nook can save them), I want to take a moment to sing the praises of these giant chain stores.  Maybe it’s because I grew up in the heart of suburbia, where going to the mall was a major cultural and social event, but I have a huge soft spot in my heart for these places.  I vividly remember the first time I walked into a… okay, to be honest, I can’t vividly remember if it was Borders or Barnes and Noble.  They both opened close to the same time near me, they had similar layouts, and they meld together in my mind.

It really doesn’t matter, because to me, they were both like Disneyland.

I was in awe not only of the miles and miles of books, but also of all the couches and armchairs.  They wanted customers to come in, relax, and read!  How cool was that?  And the place was so new and clean and shiny and inviting!  I remember people questioning if it made sense to encourage people to sit in the store and read — wouldn’t they just flip through books and never buy them?

Maybe some people did that, but the stores’ marketing plan totally worked on me.  I’d take my time and casually peruse the stacks until I found just the right book, pluck it out, fold myself into an armchair, and even if I sat for an hour, I wouldn’t finish.  But since I’d started the book, of course I had to buy it… and quickly come back for more.

Today, most of the giant chain bookstores aren’t quite so new and shiny, but I’m still just as fond of them — especially their kids’ sections.  No, they don’t compare to my favorite indie kids’ book stores, but the selection is always solid, and one of the local B&N kids’ areas even has a large stage in it.  My then-five-year-old and I once spent two full hours there, performing every one of Mo WillemsElephant and Piggie books (which are brilliant — Mo used to write for Sesame Street, so clearly he’s a genius).  My daughter always played Piggie; I was Gerald.  No one minded that we were there so long, or that we were doing dramatic interpretations.  That’s what the stage was for.  And we happily paid for our two hours of entertainment by leaving with an armful of books.

I’m all for the convenience, selection, and low cost of Amazon.com.  I buy a lot of books there.  I love the immediacy of e-books, and have several loaded on my iPad.  I will continue to frequent the wonderful indie book stores, and offer them my support.  But I am very sad that it seems the age of the giant, roomy, kick-back-and-relax-awhile bookstore is fast becoming a thing of the past.

How do you feel about the big chain bookstores?  Are you sad to see them heading the way of the dinosaurs and Blockbuster Video?  Do you have great memories of time spent there?

Hmmm… I happen to be at a coffee shop right across from a big chain bookstore right now. I might have to go in and look around. I know my grandmother could use a new large-print book…

I’ll just run across and check it out. 🙂

~ Deb Elise

18 thoughts on “Deb Elise Is Into Chains

  1. The chain bookstores often saved my life when Mia and Gianna were toddlers and even into their preschool years and beyond. We often needed to just “get out of the house,” and with their autism, we were a bit limited as to choices. Chuckie Cheese? Not happening. Too noisy and bright. And the thought of them going up into one of those hamster tubes nearly paralyzed me with dread. It would not have ended well. So bookstores, with their large children’s areas, tables and chairs and…. drumroll…. GIANT DR. SUESS DISPLAYS were like heaven for us. Mia would grab Dr. Suess’s ABCs (that Zizzer Zazzer Zuzz and Jerry Jordan are still favorites of ours) and Sesame Street toys and Gianna would zoom safely up and down the aisles while I guarded the exit area.

    I just remembered that a few years ago, when the girls were 6, 10 and 12, we had a school holiday and nothing to do. And we found shelter at the Barnes & Noble nearby. I’m sometimes sad that we’re still buying Goodnight Moon and Brown Bear Brown Bear – but that’s mine to wrestle with and reconcile, if possible. The stores have been a haven for us. Sometimes you need a community – and large bookstores have provided that to our family. The local library is never the same – too many hairy eyeballs from the super-Moms poking around the “Teach your zygote Swahili in three weeks while toilet training and knitting botties for the homeless as your abs tighten to sheet metal” books.

    So, yes three cheers for large bookstores – and they sell coffee – which makes them one step from heaven in my eyes.

    • YES!!! I didn’t even mention the coffee part, which is completely heavenly!

      And while libraries are lovely in theory, you’re right — it’s not always easy to have a noisy, curious kid there (and I mean that covering ALL kinds of kids). At a bookstore you can be a little loud, you can play, and you can do it all while giving your kid a love of BOOKS, which is spectacular.

    • Our chain stores do host author events (in fact, I did indeed go across to the chain after I wrote this and bragged about Eleanor coming to an indie out here, and they got VERY jealous. I might have to go back with Eleanor’s “people’s” contact info), but not as many as the indies. The chains are also more likely to book the celebrity authors (most of Hilary’s book signings for Elixir were at chains), while the indies cast a larger net.

      We have amazing indies here in L.A. and I love them, but I still love hitting the big boxes too.

  2. Nothing can beat the feeling of walking into a brick and mortar bookstore, whether it’s a chain or an indie. The BOOKS. *sighs* It’s heavenly. From a strictly selfish point of view, I sure hope they stick around long enough for me to see my books on the shelves.

    • YES!!!!! And knowing authors is the coolest thing in the world, because it’s now a mission for my daughter and I. We go in and make sure all my friends’ books are prominently displayed! Deb Kim and Deb Eleanor, I’ve got you covered! (B&N, to its credit, had a nice big display of WEIRD SISTERS, but I did move some copies to one shelf higher and closer to eye level) Deb Sarah and Deb Tawna, I’m ready to roll! Linda, I will gleefully do the same for your books — bring it on!

      • Wow! I actually got an email notification for your reply this time — it’s working! Cool. 🙂

        And I do the same thing for all my writer friends — whenever I’m in a bookstore, I check the shelves & turn their books face-out. Thanks for offering to do the same for me when my time comes. 🙂

  3. Oh, Linda G. I hear you! Those dreams of seeing my novels on the bookstore shelves seem to be fading fast. I’m not sure if the big stores will even be around when (not IF, but WHEN – I have to believe!) my novels are ready. Sigh.

    I support my indie store but I also like the chains. The Borders by me closed – sad, sad day. I’m afraid B&N is right behind it. And what about Books-A-Million? I count myself lucky every day to live in an area where there’s not only a few good indie stores but also three – okay, now two – chain bookstores.

    • There was a GREAT Books-a-Million near my grandmother when she lived in Florida. Not as many great places to sit, but huge selection, giant store, and coffee. Plus discount prices. We spent a lot of time there.

      The Target book section always depresses me. It’s just so small, no selection at all. And our Target’s quite large, too. Sad.

  4. Growing up in cozy, indie bookstores was lovely except for the inevitable ordering and waiting” process. Walking into a chain store and being able to walk out with the book(s) you want = Instant Gratification!

    • Yeah, there’s a lot to be said for instant gratification. Especially when one is mid-book-series and needs the next installment NOW!

  5. I love indie bookstores and do everything I can to support them, and I also keep my Kindle stocked shopping at amazon.com. But you’re right, there’s something special about the big, beastly bookstore. As a romance author, I’m particularly aware of the big, wide, sweeping aisles of romance novels at the center of my local Barnes & Noble, and I’m sad to think those may not be there forever.

    Tawna

    • A massive store just has so many opportunities for different books to catch readers’ eyes. Amazon.com has a huge selection, but I rarely “find” a book there I wasn’t actively seeking. At the big ol’ boxes, I constantly find books and authors I knew nothing about until they spoke to me face to face.

  6. I am basically just a big book freak, so anywhere with lots and lots of books is like heaven to me. There is definitely pleasure in the consistency of a big chain bookstore – no matter where I go, I know exactly what to expect. But then again, it’s so fun to be in local independent bookstores and discover something completely new.

    And online shopping….and libraries….oh, dear. I think I could never choose, basically. Give me a pile of books and I’ll be happy!

    • Totally with you… the amount I spend on books is just absurd. But I have to say, I love buying and HAVING the books, as opposed to taking them out from the library.

  7. I love me a good bookstore. I have a special spot in my heart for Barnes and Noble because they’ve been great for me and my books. Personally, you can ever go wrong with people who love books.

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