Book Habit

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From Me to You, Barnes and Noble.

With the official closing of the Chester County Bookstore in West Chester last month, and the Wall Street Journal reporting Barnes and Noble will be closing a third of its stores nationwide, I began to think of why bigger stores aren’t surviving and smaller independent stores like Wellington Square Bookshop manage to cling to life.  Yes, Amazon has eaten up revenue- but I think troubles predate the online retail giant.  It was a bad decision to open superstores in a culture where the average American reads a book a year.  That’s right people- a book a year!  Superstores like Barnes & Noble need to do a complete 180 degree and reevaluate their  identity and mission- this includes bigger independents like Chester County Bookstore (no re-opening in a smaller version)-because they just got too big. 

Start with its identity.  “We’ve got any book you could ever want” – is a flawed strategy.  Most people can handle too much choice in the cereal aisle of the supermarket because the brands are heavily advertised, but isn’t miles of aisles in a bookstore a turnoff?  Instead of the overwhelming selection- they should try picking the best of the best from a varying array of genres. We might not have a huge “historical fiction” section- but I guarantee we have the best new books in that genre- I am saving you time people, weeding out the blahs!  And of course I will order anything- I always am happy to find whatever a customer desires, whether it be ordinary or out-of- the- ordinary- because not only are they not using Amazon, but it produces a dialog between customer and our store for my knowledge of where our customers’ interests lie.   So what would take the place of overstock books? A souk. A bazaar, dense with curated merchandise. 

 Here at our shop, that is what we try to do with our stock of quirky retail merchandise, our locally supplied coffee and pastries, and our cozy furniture where you can stick your feet up.  Barnes & Noble can never be the nation’s largest independent bookstore- but it can imitate what has proven to be successful for us as well- hand-selling. 

Hand-selling requires a staff of passionate readers.  The last time I was in a Barnes and Noble- I was sadly dismissed by clueless staff.  I know English majors are few and far between these days but it isn’t hard to find knowledgeable readers out there- just look at our eclectic staff for instance.  We come from a variety of backgrounds: real estate, marketing, education, counseling and well me- let’s just say the school of “life”.  We all have different tastes, which makes out for a well-rounded staff and produces a great balance- but when it comes down to it- we just really love books.  Real books.  No e-readers here.  So Barnes & Noble please take away the Nook.  You’ll never be able to compete with the Kindle.

Plain and simple it is just easier to use Amazon as a default; a quick search, a scan of reader reviews (which usually aren’t very good people), a One-Click purchase and free shipping.  But take away the Nook front real-estate Barnes & Noble because each Nook purchase tells the customer they need never return to the store.  It eats away at the bricks & mortar business.  That’s why I refuse to sell any version of an e-reader here- believe me, I get the convenience of it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it but it’s not what a real bookstore should strive for.  You can’t be everything.  Just try to be something special to certain people, unique with its own personality, and we can all balance each other out.    I don’t want to be the only bookstore in the county- I want the variety.  So Barnes & Noble- even Chester County Book & Music Company- break away from the mall factory and the color-inside-the-lines retail and you might discover that not every suburban family is permanently addicted to a flat screen. Strive for the good old gathering place and community like us and bring me some competition again.

~ Ryann

Filed under Chester County Books Barnes & Noble Books Nook Kindle Reading

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Interview with Lionel Shriver author of “The New Republic”

Today at 5:00pm on WCHE 1520am, Sam interviews Lionel Shriver author of The New Republic

Ostracized as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. A disgruntled New York corporate lawyer, he’s more than ready to leave his lucrative career for the excitement and uncertainty of journalism. When he’s offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a homegrown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he’s been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about their beloved “Bear,” who is no longer lighting up their work lives.

Yet all is not as it appears. Os Soldados Ousados de Barba—”The Daring Soldiers of Barba”—have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward, and windblown that you couldn’t give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the “SOB” suddenly dry up?

A droll, playful novel, The New Republic addresses weighty issues like terrorism with the deft, tongue-in-cheek touch that is vintage Shriver. It also presses the more intimate question: What makes particular people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? What’s their secret? And in the end, who has the better life—the admired, or the admirer?

Lionel Shriver is a novelist whose previous books include Orange Prize–winner We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Post-Birthday World, A Perfectly Good Family, Game Control, Double Fault, The Female of the Species, Checker and the Derailleurs, and Ordinary Decent Criminals. She is widely published as a journalist, writing features, columns, op-eds, and book reviews for the Guardian, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the Economist, Marie Claire, and many other publications. She is frequently interviewed on television, radio, and in print media. She lives in London and Brooklyn, NY.

Filed under Lionel Shriver The New Republic Avid Reader WCHE Book review Interview Reading