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A Literary-Bookish Discussion at FrontBurner.


by Jerome Weeks 24 Jul 2008

Yes, we were staggered, too. But there it is on D magazine’s blog: Adam McGill has proposed his list of favorite Dallas boosktores. There’s nothing exceptional about the list — personally, I would swap the Preston Royal Borders for his top-rated Lincoln Park Barnes & Noble any day of the week because I hate the […]

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Yes, we were staggered, too. But there it is on D magazine’s blog: Adam McGill has proposed his list of favorite Dallas boosktores.

There’s nothing exceptional about the list — personally, I would swap the Preston Royal Borders for his top-rated Lincoln Park Barnes & Noble any day of the week because I hate the B&N layout and its looks (all the truly serious literature — and graphic novels — are way upstairs in back). Mercifully, the Preston Royal Borders has been mostly spared the awful computer-geek gutting that the Lovers Lane Borders underwent.

No, what’s exceptional about the list is that it spawned a spirited 53 comments in 24 hours. I agree with the commenters who thought to point out the soon-to-be independent bookstore in the Shops at Legacy. As for all those who said, forget bookstores, Amazon is the future: Actually, Amazon makes up only 10 percent of book sales. Wholesale discounters like Wal-Mart are a much bigger, much sorrier factor.

And as for why an independent bookstore could become a favorite on any serious local list, see the jump.

This is a factor that Mr. McGill and his commenters do not consider. But for now (and the foreseeable future), Salman Rushdie doesn’t come to your town for a reading because you bought a copy of his latest novel on Amazon. When major authors tour Texas, they go to Austin’s BookPeople and maybe Houston’s Brazos Bookstore — and that’s about it. They often don’t come to Dallas-Fort Worth bookstores, even though the metroplex is actually the largest book market in the region.

Publishers send authors to major independent bookstores much more often than to chain stores because major independents can deliver an audience for them. Publishers are terrified of sending authors to an empty bookstore. As you might imagine, authors hate the experience. It makes them start thinking that maybe the publisher isn’t really supporting or marketing their books — and maybe they should get another publisher.

Major independents have developed devoted followings, they have tied themselves to the local reading community through the kind of “hand selling” (personal recommendations) and social events that online retailers can’t. An independent like the late, lamented Black Images Book Bazaar has even been a significant cultural factor in the community, bringing in speakers, providing a meeting site for local groups.

Now that’s a bookstore.

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  • Bill M.

    it would be nice if we had a book store or two that actually looked like a bookstore. Paperbacks Plus looks the bookiest, and it’s amazing what you can find there.
    Borders was book-storish before they started sweeping the shelves bare. Apparently corporate decided that customers will only buy a book they can see the cover-on. In fact, real book lovers find clutter comforting. They like shelves as crowded as a Tokyo subway. Unlike the snatch-and-grab customers who just want the latest Jackie Collins and an iced mocha, book lovers browse. They pull things off the shelf and buy. They’re the ones who walk out the door with three or four books at a time.
    A visit to any B&N, by the way, is always a painful experience. That empty space. Those tables of picture books nobody wants — “The Color Book of Slugs and Snails” — and sad remainders. And what kind of marketing ineptitude led them to build across from an already established Borders, at a location that can barely support one book store?

  • My two favorites are Paperbacks Plus in Lakewood – great location, store, staff, and
    fun selection; and the giant Half Price on Northwest Highway for its selection.
    When I worked at one of the last Mom and Pop bookstores here in Dallas we faced some very tough times. Customers would come to us for service, the hard to find stuff, but buy the bulk of their main sellers at the chains to save money. In essence we were doing all the hard work and the book chains were getting all the easy profit. Also note this – toward the end of that stores existence it was cheaper to buy books from Wal-Mart ,mark them up, and resell them; then it was to buy them from book distributors. How can any business survive that?
    PS – with all the book coverage on KERA, there is little to no hard news on publishing, or guests who are literary advocates for change, or indie publishers, or zine coverage, or etc. etc. How about treating publishing as news too?
    Just once I’d like a book show interviewer to ask an author why his book is so expensive, so padded, and why he got such an obscene amount of money as an advance!

  • Joe

    The great homogenization of available books is looming, because publishers struggle and so are less willing to give an unknown author a chance, so we end up with 15 new James Patterson’s every month.

    Only buying used books, while more cost-effective, hurts authors and publishers. Authors don’t get royalties for the sale of used books. That beleagured genius living in a tire behind 7-11 could use some help…

    Buying only online ensures that eventually you’ll HAVE to buy online, because brick and mortar locations will be gone.

    Buying from the box stores hurts your community and the local availability of books, since the boxies have a very limited number of publishers that they deal with on account of the economies of numbers; smaller publishers are under-represented and the self-published author may as well just sell books out of the trunk of their car.

    If you want the list of available books to look about as exciting as the NYT Bestseller’s list, then by all means farm your money to Amazon/B&N/Borders. If you think Nora Roberts is all you need for ‘literature’ or that David McCullough is all you need for history, then ensure the failure of lesser known authors by making it financially unfeasible to publish them.