I did a little reconnasiance work this afternoon as I shop for a dedicated e-reader, getting my hands on a Simple Touch Reader at the local Barnes & Noble. (The verdict: I’m convinced that I should get a Kindle Touch.) But while I was there, I did a fair bit of snooping around for actual books and I was reminded of a conversation I had on Twitter recently on Barnes & Noble, the last big successful bookstore in the United States.
The sad reality is that it’s worse than either of us mentioned. While browing through newly-minted sections such as “Young Teen Vampire Fiction” (I seriously don’t think I’m far off on that one), I found row after row of toys. So many toys.
I can see companion toys being used to sell more books — heck, if they sold Star Wars figures while requiring the purchase of a Star Wars book, I could see loads of books being sold, and hopefully even read. But so much of what I saw today — dinosaurs and lightsabers and action figures — aren’t there in support of anything. They’re toys being sold in the bookstore in place of books, not as a companion to them, and that’s just sad.
Book stores are suffering, and we all know it. But why not take up some of that toy-selling real estate and set up great displays of awesome books. There isn’t a shortage of good books, but big booksellers* are giving away great display space to rows of disposable toys. That’s a terrible thing.
*I know that I”m generalizing about one particular big chain, but it’s the biggest one in the eastern US. There are better bookstores that don’t pull the same nonsense – I’m thinking of my favorite stores: Books of Wonder, Bookcourt, Kramerbooks, off the top of my head. The first of those in particular, could clean up selling toys alongside childrens books, but they don’t — in fact, they sell a very carefully-curated selection of those books in an attempt to sell quality over mass market stuff.