Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thoughts While Perusing An Indie Bookstore

I have the good fortune of living quite close to an incredible indie bookstore in Harvard Square. It's kind of bad because I keep dropping by to buy novels. It's a bit of a retail therapy thing, honestly; I get stressed out (this is more and more frequent) and so I buy books. Books, as always, to me, are an escape, and I need that escape really bad sometimes. It's funny, because I have a Kindle here, but I still buy paper copies of lots of books, and it's making me hope that maybe the book industry is less doomed than I originally thought. Then again, we're all book junkies here, so it might be different for the average reader.

I recently bought two books that I'm excited to read:

Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss

Obviously, what caught my attention was the title. I'm pretty into the cover design too, and I'm all about the shallow stuff when it comes to cover design; logically, I know it's marketing, but I can't help but like a book with a minimalist cover. I read a couple of pages and liked the voice a lot (importance of voice, reaffirmed), and plus, it just seemed like a cool, quirky contemporary that I'd be into.

It also has a cover blurb from Morgan Matson, and as much as I think cover blurbs are really not useful items for readers to pick books off of, hey, I love Morgan Matson, so what can I say. Plus one for this book.

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

The cover and title are both lame-ish, but I read the jacket blurb and was obligated to buy it. It's set in Boston, and as an adoring new resident (Cambridge counts, right?) of this incredible city, I had to check it out. I mean, I adore books where I can identify parts of the setting, so it's cool. (I'm looking at An Abundance of Katherines -- the part set in Chicago.)

Also, the idea seems fun, the characters seem likable, and again, read the first couple of pages and was into the voice.

I'll get back to you on these books. So far, I've read six novels in 2013, but I'm honest-to-God not kidding when I say I have zero time. I just finished Ask the Passengers by A.S. King (GREAT book, by the way) and it was by virtue of the fact that I treat reading novels like a job now. It's like I have to schedule it into my day, and I war-horse through those chapters like I'm leading a charge.

I mentioned before that I continue to buy paper copies. What I do is this. Well-known books, books like Ask the Passengers and Code Name Verity, etc., I buy on my Kindle because they're new releases and I don't want to pay double the price for hard cover. (Certain exceptions being books in a series that I'm already following or new releases from an author I'm particularly fond of; so The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson, Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, etc.) My hypothesis is that hard covers are just not going to do that well in the future. I'm sure they're already doing poorly now, but I don't know if they'll even keep making them. I like hard covers, sure, but I prefer paperbacks more, and I just don't see the point in buying twenty-dollar hard cover new releases when I can pay nine bucks on my Kindle.

And then, I thought, I will be very sad if and when bookstores go under for good. Because the point of buying paperbacks for me is they're books I'm willing to take a chance on. I haven't heard about them from recommendations, I haven't read any reviews, and I likely don't know much about that author. Paperbacks are the ones I buy in bookstores by virtue of stumbling upon them while scanning the shelves. People will always buy books like Code Name Verity, Song of Achilles, Ask the Passengers. They caught on quickly and benefited from marketing and huge word-of-mouth. But what about those smaller titles that people end up buying because they find them randomly while perusing the shelves? Some books will never get great word-of-mouth, and if bookstores die, once those books have missed the boat, sales will fizzle out and die because nobody will be looking for them. Worse, nobody will ever accidentally see anything they're not looking for.

It'll be a hugely tragic day for my book purchasing experience when I can't scan shelves anymore. I'm not sure how I'll come across that magical new discovery. There's really no experience on Amazon that can replicate that. Maybe someone can create a kind of virtual bookshelf where book buyers can peruse by spines and titles in author-alphabetical order like in a bookstore.

Until then, I'm glad I have a bookstore close by.


  1. First, cute new blog look! I love this font and the balloons in your header!

    Second, yes to bookstores! That's exactly one of my favorite things about physical bookstores - the browsing! Like you said, there's nothing on Amazon that matches that experience. I like letting covers and titles catch my eye and discovering new stories, books that I come at with as close to a blank slate as I can since they're completely new to me.

    I love paperbacks for their convenience and affordability, but I do love hardcovers for the way they look and feel and they just last longer. I've gone the way of borrowing books first and then buying in hardcover if I really really love it. Otherwise I just paperback or kindle it. Hardcovers are totally expensive though, so I get your rationale. It's not so bad if you buy from Amazon (I know, not exactly helpful) or B&N online. For books I really love or book in a series/from an author I love, I will make a point to go buy them at my local indie. That's how I negotiate my budget with my desire to help the industry. :P

    Looking forward to hearing what you think of your new buys (and also what you think of Code Name Verity and Song of Achilles!).

    1. Thanks! It took me forever to figure out the balloons, haha. I'm so tech-challenged.

      I really wish I had a nice public library that was within reasonable walking distance. There is one that's far-ish (same distance as the one when I was in undergrad, but I had much more down time and could afford to randomly traipse 30 minutes away all the time). Sometimes, I even forget that I have a Kindle until I buy a paper copy, and then I'm like, whoops.

      Everything You Need to Know About the Apocalypse was ... weird. I felt like it was kind of chaotic, but I didn't ever feel bored, I guess? I don't know how I feel about that book. I know I pretty much disliked all the characters.

      I have such a backlog of books I need to read, ahhhhh.

  2. I do so love this post. And I love your balance for supporting your indies—I buy from my favorite two indies every chance I get, even though I *work* for the big B. :)

    Anyway, I love reading your blog, so I nominated you for the Liebster Award. It's here. Hope you have fun with it, and can't wait to read more of your thoughts.

    1. Oh my gosh, thanks! Sorry for the late reply! I'll write the post soon. :)