Where Once There Was A Bookstore, Now Stands A Bookstore...Sort Of.

Let me preface this post by explaining that I come from a family that loves reading. Some of my fondest childhood memories are being read to, and later reading to others. We celebrate reading. I mean we literally celebrate reading. My niece just got her first library card and the picture of her posing with it is my screen saver.

It is no surprise that I have always wanted to be a writer.

I was quite upset when Borders closed up shop.
1 It was always one of my favorite stores. I spent many an hour lost among the stacks or sitting at the coffee shop with a stack of books trying (usually unsuccessfully) to whittle said stack down to a reasonable number before purchasing them.

I was very pleased when I found out that the location which had once housed a Borders near my house had become a Books-A-Million. I had never been inside one of their stores (there are only four in Michigan counting the new one), but I had purchased items from them on-line. I was interested in seeing how the discount club type approach translated in terms of an actual brick and mortar establishment.

From the outside the building looked exactly the same, except for the Books-A-Million banner hanging out front where the Borders sign used to be. In fact, it was a little too similar. I noticed a crack in the door glass that had been there when I had shopped the Borders going out of business sale.

My first impression when I entered the store itself was "Look at all the toys! Cool!"

My second impression was "Look at all the toys, smeh."

I wandered around for a bit, checking out which books were prominently displayed. I gave them high marks when I saw two books which I had recently purchased on their recommended new reads table.
2 I cringed a little when I saw the Shades of Grey display, but I understand that a lot of people are still interested in those craptastic books.4

Bonus points for the fact that I did not see
Twilight displayed prominently.

It was a little disorienting. I was used to the old Borders' layout. Things just were not where they were supposed to be! I stifled my CDO
5 and started walking around.

The Fiction/Literature section seemed fairly well stocked. The layout of some of the other sections seemed a bit weird. Science Fiction seemed to stop and become Romance somewhere in the latter part of the alphabet but it actually continued on the other side of the shelves. I did my usual walk through of the genres, sighed, then went to the K section of Fiction to confirm my worst fears.

Yep, there was a rather modest selection of Stephen King titles right their after Ken Kesey. Dean Koontz was a little further down. That could only mean one thing.

There was no Horror section.

I have discussed the importance of having an actual section for Horror
before. Unfortunately, Books-A-Million seems to take the Barnes and Noble route and slam the few horror titles they do have into general Fiction.


After looking around a little more, I found the Western section.

Double Sigh.

So I started looking for the book I had actually come in to purchase. Yes, this was more than a scouting trip. I have been thinking about starting Mario Acevedo's Felix Gomez series. I have all of them
7 except for the third book The Undead Karma Sutra. Once I start a series, I usually like to whip through them in order8. It's one of the reasons I don't like starting a series that only has a few books published.

I checked Science Fiction, since there was no Horror section to check. No joy. There were also no Acevedo titles in Fiction. I checked Mystery as a long shot. Technically there is a mystery to be solved. I did not really think the title would be there, but I had to look. Nope.

OK, no big deal. There are a lot of places that don't have his books. In fact, they can be kind of hard to find, which is why I picked them up when I had the chance. I decided to do a little more research to see what they did had, or did not had, as the case may be.

They did a good job on the classics of horror that might be assigned in school.
Frankenstein, Dracula, The Curious Case of Dr Jeckyll and Hr Hyde, all there. I could not find Richard Matheson. Unforgivable. Most of the horror authors I did look for9 were absent with the exception of Bentley Little. I was shocked to only find one Neil Gaiman book in SciFi. I found a few more (including copies of Good Omen, the one which I found in Science Fiction) in Fiction.

Don’t get me wrong. I advocate placing books in the correct sections. I understand putting all of an author’s titles together so that author’s fans can find them. However, there are cases when authors write outside of their genres. For example, Stephen King’s
Eye’s of the Dragon is not Horror. If it was shelved in Fantasy, someone might pick it up, enjoy it, and then work their way through some of his other books like the Dark Tower series or The Talisman which are also questionable as far as being considered Horror.

Now this is a general rant. I can already hear some of you asking, isn’t this an excuse to put all of King’s titles in Fiction? No, for the reasons I described in the previous blog I linked to above. I suppose the argument could be made that we could get rid of all genre shelving and just stick everything in fiction, but that would be a huge pain in the ass for people who are looking for a new author who writes the types of books they like.

Plus we’d have to get rid of Westerns which is apparently against Cosmic Law.

My specific rant in this case is the Mr. Gaiman’s books are some of the most brilliant, fantastic (by the old definition of the word) fiction that I have ever read. I think he belongs in Fantasy, but I don’t mind if he gets placed in Fiction.

However, you can’t put copies of
the same title in different sections. That just doesn’t make sense.

I stopped before looking for Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, or Ellison for fear of what I might not find.

I stumbled around getting a few more impressions. The magazine section was at the back, which seemed odd. I don't think I have ever been in a book store that didn't have the magazines near the front. There were a number of titles devoted to horror film, but none to horror writing (like
Cemetery Dance). I also didn't see any magazines about the craft of writing, but by this point I was rather disillusioned and decided to leave. I may have missed them.

Don't get me wrong. This is a great place to go if you are looking for the latest bestseller by your favorite author. There is a whole section of nothing but James Patterson books. I'm sure that the majority of the people who go in will find something to read and walk out happy.

There were a number of things I really had a problem with, but which I can understand from a sales point of view. I found a number of instances where the only had the most recent book in a series. When I was working at Waldenbooks
10, I always made sure that we would at least have the first book in any series for which we had the most recent. Who the Hell wants to start at the end of the series and have all of the surprises ruined?

One thing which annoyed me was that there were a couple of times I saw that they had the most recent book in a series and a boxed set of the series. The previous books were unavailable for single purchase. Again, I suppose this makes a certain amount of sense from a business stand point and I am sure that the others could be special ordered. However, if I had just finished book two and was dying to start book three I would be annoyed if my only options were to read book five while I waited for three to come in or purchase the first two books again.

There is a lot of non-book related stuff in this store. I mean a LOT. There was an entire section of the wall devoted to tee shirts. Few of them were even remotely related to books. There were a lot of Legos and Nerf guns and things like that. Don't get me wrong, I love Legos and Nerf guns. I have quite the collection of Legos and Nerf guns. I just don't know that the bookstore is the place to purchase them.

This is my opinion (just like everything else on this website), but it seems to me that it cheapens the bookstore experience for children if a portion of the area devoted to Children's books is occupied by toys and games that have nothing to do with reading. I would much rather shop at a place which encourages the family to each pick out a book to bring home instead of everyone pick out an item to bring home.

The center aisle was what really got my goat. More toys, some of them book related I will grant you that, head phones, tee shirts, games. As I was leaving one of the employees was setting up a display in a what those in the business call a "high traffic area."

It consisted of a wide variety of
Duck Dynasty merchandise.

And something inside me died just a little.

1 See this
post for more details.

2 The latest in Kim Harrison's The Hollows series
Ever After3 and ex-FBI profiler John Douglas' new book Law and Disorder.

3 Which I purchased at her reading/signing at
Nicola's in Ann Arbor, a bookstore I immediately fell in love with.

4 Once again, I have nothing against erotica, just bad writing. Pick up the Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice (writing as A. N. Roquelaure) instead.

5 It's OCD, but the letters are in the correct order.

6 Sweet Merciless Cthulhu! Where is it written that all bookstores must have a western section?Louis L'amour has been dead for a quarter of a century! Who still reads westerns?

7 Purchased at a Borders going out of business sale.

8 Of course I read them in order. See footnote #5.

9 Jack Ketchum, Edward Lee, Gary Braunbeck, Rick Hautala...

10 Back when such a place existed so you know that was a long time ago.

11 Which is why I do my best to avoid this situation.