Saturday, September 14, 2013

State of the Bookstore

I had a very frustrating experience today.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm taking a course with a fiction writer, Jim Gavin, starting in October. I decided to buy his book and read it, 1) for politeness 2) to see where he's coming from 3) possibly to have something from which to draw questions and examples. I remember reading something vague, ages ago, indicating that traditionally-published writers get more screwed on royalties on Amazon sales than they do on brick-and-mortar store sales, so I decided to go buy the book at my closest bookstore. Aside from used stores and surplus stores - neither of which would likely have the book, because it was just published in February - the closest is a Barnes & Noble 10 miles and 20 minutes away in Calabasas; the next closest is another B&N 20 miles and 30 minutes away in Thousand Oaks.

So we made a day of it, went to Thousand Oaks and ate at Umami Burger (and found out my favorite boutique, which had amazingly fun clothes at absurdly low prices, has closed) and went to the bookstore after.

They didn't have the book.

So because it was sort of on the way home, we went to the other B&N in Calabasas.

They didn't have it either.

Heckuva job, y'all. 
Now, because I often want books that aren't brand-new, nor are they bestsellers, I usually start at Amazon instead of going to the bookstore. Especially because the closest bookstore is a hassle* to get to. But I thought this would be a great example of an occasion where the bookstore was the right place to go: the book was just recently released (by Simon & Schuster!), and I wanted to maximize the author's royalties. And lo, I still couldn't get the book.

I know part of the problem is that I was at two B&Ns, instead of at an independent store where they'd be more likely to stock a book of short stories by a first-time author. But I can't find a single independent store in the Valley that isn't a used shop; the closest one as the crow flies appears to be in Malibu, which is 40 minutes away. I know I'm in a bit of a dead zone, but that isn't the point. Every time I've tried to do the right thing by books and not buy them on Amazon, I've ended up discouraged, having wasted time and gas in order to find out that I should've just ordered from Amazon in the first place.

I don't know what, if anything, this means for The Future of Books. Maybe nothing. It's anecdotal, after all, and maybe doesn't line up with everyone's experience. Matt and I talked about it on the way home, and he said it would be nice to have an Espresso Book Machine sitting in the corner of any given B&N, so it could spit out the book you wanted even if it wasn't on the shelf. Shit, I said, if it was up to me, Espresso Book Machines would be on street corners like mailboxes. But I guess that's too much to ask.

*I know the stores aren't very far away in relative terms, i.e. for someone who lives in a suburb or a rural area. But I live in Coruscant Los Angeles. Ten miles? Come on. There's like four Trader Joe'ses within ten miles of me. 


Denise said...

I get that feeling. I'm sure you know of some indie places, but just wanted to mention a spot in Glendale that I used to go to sometimes called Mystery and Imagination. I went to this event there: and heard the guy himself reading. It was pretty awesome. The people there were really nice back then too.

Katharine Coldiron said...

I really don't know that many independent places...but that's a great example. That store is 25 miles and two freeways away from me! >:(

Still, I'm glad to know about it.

Denise said...

I know, my frame of reference is Glendale-oriented. But they used to have some fun events there at times.