I Miss Bookstores

I know I’ve used this image before, but I love it. A stack of books reaching high into the sky and mixing into the scenery, weaving stories. I mean, really, for lovers of the written word, what isn’t there to love about it?

The loss of bookstores makes me sad. The lack of a variety of bookstores makes me sad when I used to spend hours and hours and hours combing the shelves, grabbing a stack, sitting in comfy chairs, and flipping through pages, then often taking most of my stack to the cashier, and walking with new worlds and ideas to explore, words to get lost in.

What’s brought on my sudden melancholy for bookstores, my pining for the good old days?

A trip to Barnes and Noble.

A couple of days after Christmas, I went out looking for a journal. I haven’t found ‘the one’ yet, but I will.

I walked in to the two story building and at once, fell madly in love again, and felt my heart break.

Books were my escape growing up. They were my journey into understanding life and ultimately pieces and parts of myself.

I loved browsing in bookstores, going to the book section in any store. My three favorite places to go as a teen were the book store, the music store, and the pizza place. One day I’m going to go on a lament about how much I miss music stores, too.

But in Barnes and Noble the other day, I looked and looked at the journals and notebooks. I picked them up. I touched them. I put them down. I wandered through the coloring books and the bargain books. Then, I wandered upstairs to the fiction section and the children’s books. I didn’t go through them. I simply walked along the perimeter. I know my face showed my longing. I know my eyes spoke of my sadness and my elation. The store was packed. It was busy and it was alive. People were buying books… a lot of books!

The Starbucks was busy, too, but more than that, people were looking and flipping through pages while sipping coffee or cocoa or noshing on a piece of cake.

My son doesn’t have an affinity for reading more than the sports pages.

My daughter doesn’t have an affinity for reading any more, either.

But me? I never grew out of it. It’s a temptation and a love affair I’ll never tire of…

There are 4 or 5 Barnes and Noble stores left in the greater Charlotte area.

There are a couple of Books-A-Million stores, but they never held for the wonder that Barnes and Noble always has. There was something about walking into one and just… Wanting to live there among the stories.

There are used bookstores and libraries. But there’s something about new books with spines never cracked or folded over, with new pages and freshly unpacked, new ink smells.

There are two local bookstores as well that sell new books (neither of which have a romance section at all). But they are loved. They are small, pigeon hole size shops. They serve their communities well. But when I lived in Florida, there was a local bookstore I used to visit all the time. They had a romance section to rival any larger bookstore. I would spend a lot of money and a lot of time sitting on their stools, reading.

I love a discount as much as anyone. I love a good deal on anything. But there’s something about paying full price in a bookstore for a book you’ve been longing for, that you’ve been waiting months, or longer for, that makes my heart ache.

I miss bookstores. I miss Barnes and Noble being everywhere. I miss Borders. I miss Waldenbooks. I miss walking in empty and walking out full of endless possibility.

Something profound has been lost with brick and mortar stores that you can’t replace with online ones. In this business of publishing, we try. And in this world, we love convenience and right now and 1-Click shopping. I love it just as much as the next guy.

Something is missing, though. For me, that something, is wonder.

One of my goals this coming year is to visit Barnes and Noble and the two local shops more often. Much more often. They’re all out of my way. I don’t venture into those parts of town very often. But I am going to make an effort to do so because I miss bookstores.

~lissa

 

How Do You Find The Books You Read?

Library room with books

This story is already known to some, but when I started reading romance, it was because of the library and a woman I met there. I was looking for a different type of book, but it ended up being near the romance section. She was there browsing their collection, looking very intense, and when I’d grabbed the book I was there to get, I took a few steps in her direction. I wanted to see what had her so riveted.

I had never picked up a romance novel. I’d always read crime thrillers or non-fiction. I looked casually at what held her interest and we started up a conversation. That led to me leaving the library with not only the book I came to get, but with 4 romance novels. Julia Quinn. Jayne Ann Krentz, Linda Lael Miller, Judith McNaught.

I. Devoured. Them.

And I went back for more. This time I left the library with double what I’d left with before. The time after that, doubled, tripled, quadrupled. I left with brown paper grocery bags full of romance novels. I was reading 1 or 2 a day. I had a full time job. I had a toddler. I was always reading every spare moment I could find.

It took several months, but I eventually exhausted all the romance books the library had. The woman and I had become fast friends over the reading of romance. We met up at the library weekly. Then we met up at bookstores.

I started writing not long after that. I have two unfinished novels, one contemporary and one historical, sitting in a box somewhere in my closet. I never thought I’d be a published author, not anywhere near as incredible as those I’d been reading.

But, the bookstores have gone away. For the most part. There are a few left, but… There’s a local one here that caters to local authors, but not romance authors. They don’t even have a romance section. I find that incredibly sad and short sighted.

The landscape for finding books has changed somewhat. I used to ask the bookstore employees when the new Julia Quinn book would be available. Now, I just look it up on her website or on Amazon or her Facebook page. Something has been personally lost in that, a connection has been severed with other book lovers anticipating the release of the same book.

A discussion was had yesterday about marketing and books. I see authors pouring thousands of dollars into Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Pinterest ads, ads on book websites, all pushing their books into what they hope are the faces of their target market. There’s a lot of connection through social media with authors now, but there’s also a disconnect…

Do you pay attention to the ads on social media? Are you this or that author’s target reader? Are you swayed by the push? It works for those authors who get it right.

How do you find books to read? New authors to try?

I was a reader before an author. I listened to what my friend had to say. I looked at books that were housed on the same shelves or nearby to my favorite authors. And I checked the new release shelves to see what might pique my interest. I didn’t read with the trends. I liked what I liked and I pretty much stuck to it. I’m still that way a lot.

On Amazon, I look at the Also Boughts of my favorite books and authors. I don’t take as many chances on new authors as maybe I should. I don’t fall prey to the ads I see, but then I’m also apparently not the target market for a lot of my go to authors. Then again, a lot of them don’t even bother with ads.

There’s so much noise in the book world that it’s hard to sit quietly. It’s always changing. New books are coming out daily. And the competition for limited shelf space is astronomical… And I’m talking virtual shelf space. It should be endless, but in order to be seen… It takes something that I haven’t yet been able to tap into.

So, tell me, readers, how do YOU find your next book to read? Your next favorite author? Is it through ads you see on social media? Is it a book group? Is it a friend? Is it random? And as a reader, what works for you when it comes to YOU wanting to try a new book rather than an author wanting you to try her, or his, new book?

~lissa