A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
This is the time of year most people go to book stores. This is the time of year I usually avoid bookstores. Statistics show that at least 50% of book shop revenue is made the last 2 months of the year. That’s nice for them, but it really ruins the whole atmosphere. Long lines, crowded aisles and the ka-ching of cash registers is not conducive to the contemplative mood regularly sought by devout bookworms such as myself. I should be pleased that people are buying books in such numbers, it keeps the shops in business, after all, but all the hurly-burly makes me feel a bit bah humbug.
It got me to thinking: what makes a good book shop? In a way, it’s a personal question, depending on an individual’s likes and needs, so keep in mind, this is my preferences, but feel free to chime in with yours. And since I’m in the U.S. the stores may be different where you live, too.
As mentioned before, quiet is important, that means no piped in music- it’s not a disco. It’s hard to read while dancing, at least I’m guessing it is. Lots of comfy chairs, the kind you sink into and not grouped into a “conversation area”, but scattered through the shop, in little nooks. A coffee house inside the shop is good too, sipping a mocha while leafing through a book is sublime. In my case, it’s also dangerous, since I’m clumsy, so there’s always the risk of spilling chocolate coffee all over that $80 bird book. But I like to live life on the edge. I also enjoy a range of magazines to peruse, including some obscure ones that the libraries don’t carry. And I don’t mean those devoted to cars and body building, either.
There are mostly chain stores in my area, which drove out most of the independent bookstores that I remember fondly. My favorite is probably Half-Price Books, which sells discounted remainders and used books. As a starving artist, their prices fit my budget and their stores are a bit ramshackle, which adds to their charm. A new store which opened last year in a nearby shopping center, which I renamed “Billions of Books”, looks like a trendy engineering firm with its rows of black shelves and harsh lighting. They do have a wider variety of magazines than most and, it must be said, the best tasting mocha of all the coffee places. My local Barnes and Nibble has a two story location with a Starbucks inside. It’s in a fancy mall where yuppies shop, but is surprisingly inviting. The second floor is sort of like a wide balcony and has lots of those cushy chairs. Borders is a block away and specializes in nooks. They have benches as well as chairs, which can make it feel like a locker room without the undressed athletes and can grow uncomfy when reading for long periods. Do you think anyone would notice if I laid down? Hmmm, probably.
Let’s review: quiet, lots of comfy chairs, coffee counter, plenty of magazines and cheap books. As yet, I’ve not found a store with all the ingredients in one place. Is the perfect book store an impossibility? It seems so simple, it’s not like we’re talking World Peace, here. But, as U2 says “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
Jackie is hoping readers tell us what their ingredients are for the perfect bookstore.
Books and coffee cup drawing is courtesy of Faith Clip Art