Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

lunes, febrero 28, 2011

Books And Non-Books

Please permit your bloguero briefly to display his streak of intolerance and snobbism.

Today's New York Times informs readers of the Gray Lady that publishers are now selling books in retail stores of all kinds. It initially sounds like a good idea, selling literature and great novels in retails stores. But alas, that would be too good. Why? Because the books they're talking about are really non-books. They're not talking literature, they're talking the written equivalent of junk food. Here you go:

At Lowe’s, books on subjects like cooking and home projects are stacked at the front of the store, “inspiring and informing customers to purchase goods that will allow them to successfully complete home improvement projects” ...

At Sam’s Club, which has long carried stacks of best sellers, more children’s books and cookbooks have been added lately. ... Sam’s Club has been using its bricks-and-mortar advantage in other ways, too, like adding books from local writers, and bringing in authors for signings.

If Anthropologie is selling ikat prints, it might feature books with ikat covers, or it will carry books about inspiration and poetry to get the customer in an escapist mood.

“As we try to get them excited about different ideas as they walk in the door, books can be a tremendous way to narrate those stories,” said Aaron Hoey, head merchant for home and accessories at Anthropologie. “We do a very good job of selecting unique books, books you’re not going to find in a typical bookstore, and certainly not in a mass-market bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble. And to stumble across it at Amazon, you have to really know what you’re looking for.”

The specialty stores can be a boon for publishers selling quirky titles unlikely to get on Amazon’s home page. “Awkward Family Photos” is a hot item at Urban Outfitters, “Hello, Cupcake,” about cupcake design, has been selling strongly at the craft store Michaels, and Price Stern Sloan, another Penguin imprint, sold 42,000 copies of “Mad Libs” in January alone — at Cracker Barrel. At Bookmarc, where fashion titles sold predictably well, executives were surprised when “Erotic Poems” by E. E. Cummings started flying off shelves.

At Kitson, too, the top sellers hardly mimic the best-seller list, including books like “How to Raise a Jewish Dog” and “The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm.”

Nice. I don't know anything about readings at Sam's Club, and I don't know anybody who's done one, but at least that seems plausible. You could read from your new book about how cute kittens are. The rest of it? Not good for writers. Not good for readers.

Is this the bell lap in the traditional publishers' race to extinction?

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