Big Bookstores

Big Bookstores

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation.

I have always tried to stay near to things I love best. That’s why one of my first jobs was in a shoe store. It was just a mall job, and it wasn’t even a cool store like The Wild Pair, but it did get me close to my beloved shoes. At first it seemed great. I got an employee discount! Then I discovered the fatal flaw. Customers.  It was time to move on. The shoe store was between a book store and an ear piercing emporium, which, gag, so it was a pretty easy decision. Off to B Daltons I went. This was a much better fit, people didn’t usually need my help to browse although people going on vacation tend to buy books by weight — so I did get the occasional “I need a book that won’t hold me back  while I race through the Atlanta airport to catch that stupid subway”, or “Something I won’t feel guilty about forgetting in a motel room in Cleveland,” or “A book  that it won’t matter if it gets suntan lotion all over it.” Of course, this was two hundred years ago, when all you could find in a bookstore was actual books. I know, I used to ride my dinosaur to work.

These days, books are almost secondary to the tidal wave of stuff you’ll find inside. Take a look around. Magazines? Well, those are book-shaped at least. Calenders? Okay, I can see that. Wrapping paper, toys for kids, toys for adults? Toys for dogs? Mugs, tshirts, pens, stationery, gift cards, greeting cards, all leading towards the inevitable café. Where you can buy a cup of Sumatran coffee hand picked and ground by actual orangutans, and a seven dollar slice of cake. I always face the ethical dilemma of whether or not to bring a book into the café — what if I get crumbs on it? Am I compelled to buy it? And what if I have to use the restroom? I wouldn’t want someone else’s pre-bathroomed book. Once I’ve wrestled that moral quandary to the ground, it’s time try to make it to the register. Now you get all the almost books. If it’s got pictures of dogs with inspirational sayings, unless the dog actually wrote the sayings, it’s not a book. Refrigerator magnets? Ah, the unexplored realm of appliance based literature. Not a book. Chicken Soup for the Fat Bald Bed-wetting Soul? You’re going to have to convince me. Finally, the register. The last hurdle — the display of Godiva chocolate bars. Sucked in again by the sweet candy goodness! So 78 dollars later, I’ve got my 5 dollar paperback.

If you just can’t stand going out in public at all, and by you I mean me, you can buy books in the privacy of your own darkened living room. Here’s to Amazon, where I buy my body weight in books every month. I like to buy books from Amazon in the middle of the night. I tend to forget I’ve ordered things until they show up. Then it’s like Oh! Is this for me? Oh Amazon, you devil, you shouldn’t have! It’s not even my birthday! Of course, even my beloved Amazon sells literally everything. I was going to make a snarky remark about them not rebuilding transmissions, yeah, they now have an automotive department. My favorite part is recommendations based on shopping patterns. Sometimes they’ll tell me I might also enjoy thermal socks, Tabasco sauce and butcher knives — how did they know? It’s like they’re reading my mind!

If you’re lucky, you have a small bookstore in your neighborhood; usually they stock used books, and they have that particular smell of mold, dust, and knowledge. Used bookstores are special places, and I’ll save that conversation for another Fiction Nation.

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation on Take Five, XM 155.