Thursday, April 29, 2010

In which I complain

Bookstores have been in the news more than usual lately, thanks in part to the Amazon vs. MacMillan e-book contremps. Lots of people are coming out in favor of independent booksellers, and, sure, I like the idea myself. But in practice, when I go to independent bookstores, like Davis-Kidd here in Nashville, the only way I can tell I'm not at Barnes and Noble is the large "Nashville" section. At neither place can I find many books I actually want to read.

I keep a list of books I want on an Amazon wishlist. (Note: Books referenced below can be found on this list.) Mostly, this is because their wishlist function is really well designed. Some of these books are scholarly texts that I hardly expect to find in a local bookstore. But a lot of them are fiction, many of which have gotten positive press and I imagined would be selling well.

For example, there is China Mieville's The City and the City, which just won a reasonably major prize. Adam Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia was also shortlisted for it. Other books I've become interested in because of positive blogosphere word (especially from Three Percent) include Ajvaz's The Other City, Waberi's In the United States of Africa, and Ilya and Ilf's The Golden Calf. Heck, I haven't even been able to locate a copy of the reprint of Jennifer Crusie's The Cinderella Deal, which hardly qualifies as obscure.

But I go to the sci-fi/fantasy section of the bookstore, where many of these might be shelved, and what do I find? Row upon row of Star Trek novels and lot of Robert Jordan. I check the fiction/literature section, just to make sure they're not there either, and of course they're not. Davis-Kidd does have a nice large section of Vera Bradley handbags, which is a good thing, because it's not as if there is anyplace else in Nashville to find her designs. [sarcasm alert]

My point? Independent bookstores aren't, as far as I can tell, filling the role being claimed for them now. I am sure there are exceptions (I have fond recollections of the Elliott Bay Book Company), but lots of independent bookstores are indistinguishable from Borders and Barnes and Noble. So I mostly shop online, generally from Powell's even though I feel the price difference over Amazon. About half the time when I go into a bookstore, ready to spend my dollar, I come out empty-handed.

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