Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Build your dream bookstore

Operating on the assumption that everyone who reads this blog is a wild-eyed booklover, I thought we might talk today about bookstores. What's your favorite bookstore? What makes a good bookstore? Do you think Barnes and Noble is as good as it gets (they do, after all, carry Moleskine notebooks and they sell Godiva chocolate at the cash registers), or do you love little indie stores where the coffee is free and overstuffed chairs can be found in quiet corners?

Do you ask for book recommendations from salespeople, or do you prefer to be left alone to explore? Do you like everything neatly organized, or is it more exciting when you never know what you might stumble across next?

If you're in love with your neighborhood bookstore, please tell us all about it. And if you haven't yet found the perfect bookstore, why not "design" it right now and share it with us?


Dianne said...

Hmm, I see your blog has been spammed just like mine was recently. Anyways, came here via Robin Lee Hatcher's blog and thought I'd comment on the bookstore thing. Personally I love my local Borders. A B&N recently opened across the way, and while I visit there occasionally, I feel like I'm abandoning my first love. I love to escape on a Sunday afternoon for a few hours and just camp out at Borders. No, I never ask for recommendations or anything. Just read, write and drink coffee. I need them to be logically organized however, and I hate when they rearrange things! When I'm on vacation though, I seek out the local hole-in-the-wall bookstores.

Brenda Coulter said...

I just dealt with the spam, Diane, but I'm sure they'll be back. [Sigh.] They've been hitting me hard lately.

Thanks for stopping by.

Shawn said...

I love B&N and would likely call it my favoite book store. I grew up in a small town but was always an avid reader. Our town only had one small book store, and I can remember spending afternoons there browsing the shelves of books while waiting for my mother to get off work. The employees followed me around asking if they could be of help and would continue to stand in the same aisle as I browsed. I never liked that atmospshere. I am perfectly happy browsing by myself and fully capable of asking for help if I need it. B&N leaves me to my own devices. Plus, it is well-organized (which I appreciate) and, well, there is the chocolate and coffee.

Chris said...

I prefer Borders to B&N (they have wall outlets in the coffee shop and internet discount coupons); unfortunately they change their floorplans annually. B&N has a nicer periodical section, though.

My favorite bookstore, though, is Powell's City of Books in Portland. A 4-5 level, city-block of a store, used & new books, one-hour free parking (not a small consideration; given their location any parking is a wonder--one free hour is a blessing).

Since I don't make it up to Portland that often, I make do with the wonderful St. Vincent de Paul stores here in Eugene: plenty of books, sorted, and alphabetized by author in fiction (except for Romance, which is just a jumble).

--Chris (dFm)

Anonymous said...

I go to the B&N sometimes when I want a larger selection of books other than romance. For my shopping and browsing, I prefer my local bookstore where they know me, will order anything for me, and will save copies of books they know I want. The romance clerk, Jackie, knows everything about romance novels and makes great recommendations.

Robyn said...

My favorite bookstore is a little hole-in-the-wall where I feel like Indiana Jones making discoveries. But, no coffee unless you bring your own. If my little shop had coffee, it would be perfect.

I don't dislike salespeople, but I'd also love computer catalog stations every so often in the big stores, so I could look up things myself.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy in any bookstore that has a large selection, because what I go looking for is not usually the big-selling stuff, so I need variety. And if I browse, I want to be delightfully surprised.

My ideal bookstore would have the stock of a megastore (Borders or B&N) with the personal touch of my local Books & Books, whose owner, Mitch Kaplan is a true bibliophile who supports local talent. I'd want regular readings, author visits with signings, poetry nights, and a tea/coffee shop that isn't a generic Starbucks, but has a more local appeal and homeyness, sort of an Aunt Janey's teas and cakes and coffee shop. I'd like to have live music and book discussions. I'd like good prices. I'd like nooks (one big store without coves and nooks to sit and hide and peruse is not as fun as a store with various rooms that you wander in. I like windows with light coming in. I like plush chairs and hidden benches.
The old Books & Books was this charming old building, kinda Spanish style, with lots of windows and small rooms (as if this were a house) with poetry and fiction here, art and architecture there, and a different room for magazines and cards and gifts, and you passed through arches, and it felt personal and like an artsy place. I like that. And the staff had a lot of bibliophiles who could make recommendations. I want a staff who loves books. I want to see a rack where the staff gives recommendations and tells you why this book or that one rocks.

So, I want the hugeness and good prices of a megastore, with the homeyness and coziness of a book-loving, locally grown shop. And good tea and cucumber sandwiches and cookies. And forget Godiva. Godiva sucks. I want Valrhona.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that was me, Mir, who posted previous post. Forgot to sign.

Brenda Coulter said...

Ha. I knew that. Only you would have the nerve to insult Godiva chocolate here on my blog. ;-)

Ah, Chris. So you've been browsing in the romance section?

BOBROM, that's just the way I feel. Sometimes I prefer the big, has-everything-including chocolate store and sometimes I just want to while away an hour in a cozy little neighborhood bookshop where the coffee's on the house and the clerks have time to chat with me.

My local library has a reading area in front of a large fireplace. Why don't bookstores do that?

Here's another question: Do you people like to see authors signing in bookstores? I'll admit that I've never been attracted by that, even when it's a genre or an author that I like.

Anonymous said...

BOBROM? Hello, Riccarla!!!!!!


Chris said...

> Do you people like to see authors signing in bookstores?

Every one I've seen has been seated at a rickety card table with a forlorn look on their face. I've never seen one actually signing a book. This and books by people I've never heard of in the remainder section make me feel sad.

Exception: In cases where the signing was accompanied by a reading or presentation, I have seen authors smiling and signing away. This makes me feel happy and imparts marketing savvy (which compounds the happy feeling).

Brenda: I check the romance section for your book. So far either everyone's keeping hold of their copy or I've gotten a headache from the multi-shades of pink and red on the book-spine mosaic before I've found it.

--Chris (dFm)

Anonymous said...

Tattered Cover (Lo-Do location) in Denver and BookPeople in Austin. Both have extensive offerings, large comfy furniture, coffee, chocolate, but with a small bookstore feel since they are independents and not huge chains. Tattered Cover in Denver is a vacation destination for me...I can spend all day, and go back the next. Nooks with books...all stacked here and there, but still there is some sense of order.
(how ya' feelin' today Bren?)

Brenda Coulter said...

I'm feeling relieved. That nasty 48-hour migraine is finally history.

Chris, I get lots of mail from people who have found my (out of print) book in used-book stores. It always gives me a little thrill to hear that one of those orphans has found a good home.

Anonymous said...

Mir! It's me! I'm still here - starting my 6th year at BHS teaching Speech/Debate and Drama (they threw in one English class but we won't go into that.) Patrick and Vivien are wonderful. How are you? Where are you? Que pasa? E-mail me if you want.
Riccarla (BOBNROM@aol.com)

Anonymous said...

That should be BOBROM@aol.com!

Heather Diane Tipton said...

Oooooh bookstores. I have to agree with a lot of what Mir said about her ideal store. Mine is a lot like hers. I've been designing my own bookstore since I was 13. Someday, hopefully, I'm going to get to open it. And yes Brenda I have a huge fireplace in mine.

Re Tattered Cover in Denver, I was in Denver last year, and people talked that store up to me like crazy. So I went. Loved the feel of the place. But the book selection wasn't what I would have expected for such a huge place.

reojames said...

My favorite book store is called Book Attic. It's a little, warm used book store near Nashville. I love pre-loved books! Sometimes you find old bookmarks, notes and even photos of the previous owner. It's like a treasure hunt!

Brenda Coulter said...

Pre-loved books? Hmm. I've always seen them as rejected books, orphans in need of loving homes.