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The Last Book Store
A Glimpse at Cultural Decline through a Meatspace Book Store
Two weeks ago I took our bimonthly pilgrimage to the Barnes & Noble book store at White Marsh with Mescaline Franklin. He had informed me that the Barnes & Noble near his home is closing and was curious as to my thoughts considering this outlet. I surveyed the book store as a bibliophile with decades of experience setting up retail food outlets, and noted the following, with each listing preceded by a + or a -, indicating a negative collections trend or a positive trend.
-The impulse purchase tables drawn from the regular collection are now barren of history and anthropology, with most space devoted to romance fiction.
+The open domain classics are well represented in various editions and appear to be selling.
-New releases promoted on the prime retail tables were predominantly books by and/or about celebrities.
-New and recent history releases were dominated by three dubious types:
1. Books ghost written for a Fox news Op-ed figure,
2. Jingoistic tomes on the defeat of the evil Nazi empire by “the greatest generation” of Americans, revealing as yet unfathomed Nazi evils and under-appreciated American heroics. [WWII is no longer, apparently recognized as having had a Russian or Japanese component, and the Third Reich is represented as an engine of global extermination that was not going to rest until every non-German human had been wiped from the face of the Earth.] The leftist rewriting of this conflict seems as kooky as the bizarre neo-Nazi revisions I read in my youth, but is more troubling, because, where the right wing kooks who wanted to paint humanity’s largest killing with a bizarrely fantastical brush of Germanic innocence were rightly ignored, the lefties are finding their way onto the mainstream book list.
3. Neo-conservative books promoting the U.S. as the world’s SWAT team.
-The science fiction selection has fewer male authors, and has eliminated all titles by Robert E. Howard, Poul Anderson, Gene Wolfe, as well as most of Phllip K. Dick’s selection.
-The science-fiction section has maintained the same footage but has reduced selection by facing out new releases to show the very comic book like covers. This is a sign that customers are demanding less variety and that a catalog style inventory is gradually being abandoned for an “eye appeal is buy appeal” strategy.
-Also in the science-fiction section, a new genre of Nazi- Zombie fiction is now part of the ever-expanding videogame inspired offerings in the category of fiction most renowned for its promotion of alternative ideas.
+/-More slave narratives are in print than previously. However, the selections on European history, Ancient history, and surveys of the lives of common people in past times have all been reduced.
I am of the opinion, that considering the way these marketing changes have been made, and that actual inventory variety is being reduced, that this book store is suffering from reduced sales, and reduced demand for serious literature and the staff is adapting according to standard retail practices, which have recently impacted public libraries in the same fashion.
The people who buy book s at retail outlets, as well as those who utilize public libraries, have less appetite for variety and gravity in literature and retailers and collections management personnel at libraries are adapting accordingly.
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Add Comment
Sam J.December 13, 2015 1:22 AM UTC

The internet is killing book stores and libraries. I used to buy an extraordinary amount of magazines and books and hung out at the library a lot. I haven't been in a book store in a year. The library in 3 months or so. The internet really fills the magazine proportion handily and I've got so many books to read just from the internet archive it will difficult to get through them.

I think book stores will have to continue coffee sales and other stuff to draw people in then get them to buy books on impulse.

When I buy books it's usually through Amazon. I can usually get a used one cheaper and it's convenient. Personally I like it but it's dishonest that Amazon and other online retailers don't pay local taxes. Just more atomization of our society.