Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tale of Two Bookstores

I have discovered the worst place in the world to be inspired as a writer.

It's a bookstore.

Not just any bookstore, but the Bargain Book Warehouse that popped up about a year ago in the vacant shell that used to be a Borders. With bare, dingy walls and acres of tables piled high with remainders, it's a great place to discover a new book for a dollar, but a terrible place to reflect on the need to add your own story to the sad lot of unwanted tales throughout history.

When I look at those tables, I think, "There are enough books in the world. There are more than anyone could ever read, and here there are more than anyone wants."If there were still a cafe in the dreary space, I can't imagine anyone sipping coffee and tapping out a novel there.

How many of those books would have been sold, might have been solid successes, had Borders not closed? And here they are, gathering dust, in the very same place that is a graveyard to writers' hope. I'm normally delighted to see my friends' books in the wild, but this was one time I didn't whip out my camera. (If I had enemies, it might be different, as Clive James wrote so well.) Note that my feelings of futility did not prevent me from picking up a few good discoveries. 


Fortunately, it's not the only bookstore in town. 

Yesterday, I went to Children's Book World in Haverford, a gem of an independent store that carries just about every title I could think of, classic to new, picture books to YA, even a small, carefully curated adult section. I didn't visit CBW nearly as often when Borders was alive, and now I do. And it's CBW's shelves where I long to see my own books, alongside the autographed editions by Kate DiCamillo, Laurie Halse Anderson,  and Jerry Spinelli.

Did I start longing again?? That's pretty close to inspiration -- better get to writing!

What settings or situations are motivating -- or demotivating -- to you?


4 comments:

  1. I used to work at Books Inc. and over half our stock was remainders. You're right that as a reader, it was delightful to stumble on treasures for cheap (I can't tell you how many signed first editions I found on the .98 and $1.88 tables) but depressing to wonder if that was in my future as a writer.

    But going to Westercon this past weekend was refreshing, seeing some of these diehard fans (of course, these same fans were willing to ruthlessly shred your worldbuilding and its believability) go all googly eyed over their favorite authors.

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  2. I don't know that you draw the conclusion that those books (and, consequently, authors) would have been 'discovered' had Borders not closed. It's entirely possible those books would have been sent back to the publisher anyway; instead of being on a $1/book, they would gotten packed up in the back room.

    I am glad to have physical bookstores around, though, that's for sure.

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    1. Those $1 books ARE the ones that get returned. They get a remainder mark on them and the publisher sells them as a lot (literally a palette of books for sale). Only mass markets are spared this fate--just their covers are returned and the insides are pulped. sounds appropriately grisly, doesn't it?

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    2. Oops, it looks like it ate my comment I tried to leave yesterday. Those $1 remaindered books ARE the returned books. Stores return them for credit, and then the publisher sells them as a lot (by the pallette or the pound). Except for the mass markets--only the covers get returned on those, and the insides get pulped. Sounds like an appropriately grisly end, doesn't it?

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