Apparently there is a woman in the UK who is also inspired by the weird and wonderful people in bookstores… and has written a book about it. So if any bookstore employees would like to submit a story to be included in the US/Canada version of her book, check it out. Also, good stories worth reading.
Monthly Archives: March 2012
In retail, it’s all about the customers. They can make your day, or break it.
One customer, who taught me a lot in a single visit is a girl named Amanda. She is fourteen years old, and in a wheelchair. Her hands and head shake, so she can’t read easily, and mostly uses audiobooks. She thinks I’m really cool. Why? Because I didn’t treat her like a four year old. I didn’t address my questions to her mom. And I also showed her how to take audiobooks out from the library web site. Why would I do that when I work in a bookstore? Well, because we don’t have very many teen audiobooks, and audiobooks can be crazy expensive. And I like to help anyone who loves books that much. She was the one who told me she liked it that I didn’t talk to her in baby talk. I don’t know if I have ever done that with someone in a wheel chair, but I certainly won’t ever do it in the future. I hope she comes back – she is funny and smart, and pretty, and it’s pretty sad that people are missing that because they ignore her. She brightened up my whole week with our fantastic chat about The Hunger Games.
I had another customer today, whose name I don’t know. Let’s call him perpetually angry man. He comes into the store at least once a week, and inevitably is angry at something. He is angry because we don’t have a book he wants. He is angry because we have the book he wants but it is too expensive. He is angry that the discount card isn’t free, and the free card doesn’t give discounts. He is angry if the staff object to being yelled at. He is angry if we ask him if he wants to speak to a manager – he doesn’t, because he doesn’t want someone who can actually take action, he wants someone to yell at. He says we shouldn’t take complaints personally, and then makes personal insults – “daddy issues” is one quote. In the past, books have been thrown.
I actually had a customer buy me a coffee at Starbucks because he was impressed with the way I handled perpetually angry man – which was basically nodding for 20 minutes. I think he was impressed that I didn’t strangle the guy on the spot. I’m starting to think that some people go to places that emphasize customer service just to have someone who will listen to them vent, not because they actually want to buy something.
I am seriously considering inventing a martial art – let’s call it book-fu. All of the weapons would be fashioned from books – two books on the ends of a chain, throwing stars made from hardcovers, etc. Ideally, people hit with the weapons would become less ignorant. I think my weapon of choice would have something written by the Dalai Lama on one end, and something by Desmond Tutu on the other. People without a sense of humor could be smacked with Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore. People who are too serious could be subjected to Chester, by Melanie Watt… oh gosh, I could go on.
I’d love to hear who you’d go after, and with what books as your weapon. C’mon people, hit me (sorry, had to).
I have noticed that after the new patch that was just released, a new issue has been coming up with Kobo Touch when trying to purchase books directly through Wi-fi. This issue happens because many public hotspots require you to connect via a browser before you download. So, here is how to avoid this problem, if you want to purchase books, directly from your Kobo Touch, using Wi-fi:
- From the home screen, touch the drop-down menu at the top (HOME)
- Select “Settings” from the drop-down menu
- Select “Extras” from the settings screen.
- Select “Launch Browser” from the extras screen.
- You may now see a list of available connections, if your device detects more than one. Select the public network (it will probably have “hotspot” in the name), which won’t have an image of a closed padlock beside it.
- Your Kobo should then show a box asking you to confirm that you want to connect to the hotspot. Agree that you want to connect.
- You should get the browser coming up, and connecting to the Wi-fi site. You should then have a little confirmation box pop up saying that you are connected to the network.
- You can now close the browser, and return to the home screen, where you can access the Kobo store from the drop-down menu.
One of things customers tell me, on a regular basis, at the bookstore, is how much cheaper they could be getting these books elsewhere. They call on the phone and tell me this too. I’m not sure why. Particularly the best sellers.
Apparently, Costco is the place to go for discount best sellers. Because that’s where I want to spend my time. The cozy, friendly environment of Costco. Now, I’m not knocking Costco – it’s just not a bookstore, and it’s not designed around lingering. It’s designed to hold as much stuff as possible, and to keep overhead low to keep prices low. That means that they’re going to have the minimum number of staff they can manage, at the lowest pay they can get away with. They certainly don’t have anyone who has the time to be trained only on books, or the inclination to have chairs so people can read in-store.
Bookstores are funny things. Most of the time, the staff are there because they really want to work in a bookstore. Even if they don’t necessarily know all about every book in the entire store, there is inevitably a book you can mention that will awaken passion and enthusiasm, a glow you rarely see in people working in other kinds of stores. We get excited about hunting down books for you. We’re overjoyed when you loved a book we recommended – and will happily discuss it at length. We will help you find a book for every birthday on your list.
I have personally, not once, but many, many times, sat down with someone and helped them set up their e-reader, purchase books on it, and walked them through using it. And done it again in a couple of weeks when they forgot how to do something. I don’t have to do this, I want to do this. I love making it easier for someone to enjoy reading. I love it when the frustration on someone’s face turns to comprehension, and the device in their hand turns from a potential projectile into the coolest thing they’ve ever used.
I am definitely not the only one in my store who is this passionate about their job, and that’s just one store.
So yes, the purchase price of the book may be cheaper elsewhere. But in terms of value for your money, my vote is for the bookstore, every time.
I am going to start off saying that I liked this book. Maybe my problem with the book isn’t so much the book itself, but that I had people telling me that it was the best story they had ever read in their entire lives.
I don’t know about you, but I differentiate between writing and story. Hunger Games: fantastic story, decent writing. Eragon: Great story, the writing faltered a little, though. Anna Karenina: gorgeous writing, and sometimes he lost the story thread entirely.
Maybe they loved Julian Barnes’ writing. I will say that it is pretty much flawless, in terms of pacing, but much of the story is fairly dry stuff. The book is a novella where the first part of the story is the main character, Anthony, telling the stories of his school days. He describes the friends he spent time with, the girls they loved. The second part of the story is him looking back on his life, and how his desire to paint a rosier picture of his own thoughts and actions made his memories and thoughts of the past wrong, sometimes horribly so.
The second part of the book I enjoyed immensely, and watching how the past changed and became clearer, every time Anthony lost a self-delusion, was gripping. Like the most melodramatic onion-peeling ever. Lots of twists, great revelations. Examination of the concept of memory, and how fluid it is.
I was left with the feeling that the beginning of the book had no purpose, other than so the author could write the ending. I’m not sure that will make sense to anyone else, but I can’t think of another way to put it.
Try not to read the book jacket. It won the Man Booker prize, but to use my earlier point, most of the prizes given out for books focus on quality of writing, not quality of story. It almost seems like if a prize-winner has a good story, it’s just a coincidence.
Also, there is now, for the TP edition, a new comment, by A.D. Miller, on losing the Man Booker to Julian Barnes: “It was like losing to Brazil in the World Cup final.” What does that even mean? You lost, but you lost to the best? Some soccer fans really hate Brazil. If he had lost, he risked being killed by the book-lovers of his country? When he loses, he loses with style? My mind just wouldn’t leave this alone. It interrupted my reading at odd moments. Completely distracting. If you need to consider this, consider it now, before picking up the book. Maybe he just wanted to say something that sounded positive, without actually praising the book.
By all means read this book, but set aside any preconceptions you have about it first. And then just enjoy it as an interesting little mind diversion, crafted with grace.
Just so you don’t get your hopes up, I don’t actually know the secret truth behind book awards. Except that the people on the jury frequently don’t share my taste. They like “experimental” books (aka, incomprehensible). Of the various books that I’ve read that have won awards, the only book awards that I agree with fairly consistently are kids’ book awards. The Pulitzer, the Man Booker, the Governor General, they very often leave me baffled at why they choose one book over another, and how they even make the shortlist.
In the very near future, I will review Julian Barnes’ “The Sense of an Ending”, where I have to say I spent more time pondering one of the comments on the book jacket than the book itself.
In the meantime, please enjoy this article written by author C.B. Forrest, with his say on book awards.
I also quite enjoyed his other article with book award commentary as well:
A video of awesomeness for the hardcore book lover. Or the hardcore, book lover. Or the hardcore book, lover.
B*tches in Bookshops (based on Jay Z and Kanye West’s “N*ggas in Paris”)
Performed by La Shea Delaney (@lashea_delaney) & Annabelle Quezada (@annabelleqv)
A quick update on the One Million Moms boycott of Toys ‘R Us and Archie Comics over the issue featuring a gay marriage (see previous post): fail. Complete and utter fail. The issue has completely sold out. There are bidding wars for it on eBay. It has become a collectors item.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the best outcome I could have hoped for. Not only did the ridiculous boycott not hurt anyone, it probably helped get publicity, and drove people to show their support for the issue – and the issue. It’s now being referred to as “the attempted” boycott. For an interview with the CEO of Archie, after the failure of the boycott, you can see the Huffington Post article here.
Hooray for the triumph of common sense.
Pretty much anyone not living under a rock, and probably some who are, have heard the phrase “The Hunger Games” lately. With the movie about to release, and the merchandise going crazy (check out the display at Chapters if you doubt me), it can be a little tough to tell whether the trilogy is really worth reading, or whether it’s just Hollywood sparkle. As someone who has actually read The Hunger Games, and, in fact, read it when it originally came out, I think I can give you a review minus the hype.
The Hunger Games was published as a teen book, but I think that it’s a good enough story that adults can enjoy it too. This is a classic adventure novel, full of action. There are moral quandaries, questions of ethics, but they are fuel for the drama. The setting is a classic dystopia, a post-apocalyptic world where all wealth is centred in The Capitol, and everyone else lives in one of twelve districts, where all food and resources for The Capitol come from. The people in the districts are little more than slaves, and their lives are short and bleak. The one event that can change that: The Hunger Games. Teams of two, one male and one female, chosen from each district, compete to the death in an arena full of genetically altered animals and horrific booby traps. At the end of the games, only one person will stand. The whole thing is televised, and winning partly depends on capturing the attention of the audience, since audience participation is encouraged, and audience members can send food and medical supplies to favored competitors.
The story follows one of the competitors from district twelve, a girl named Katniss Everdeen, and how her life is changed dramatically when she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place in the games. The victor’s district will receive additional food supplies. Imagine suddenly being the symbol of everyone’s hopes – especially as a teenager.
I’m not going to get into the description of the other two novels, since that will essentially act as a spoiler for the first one.
I do recommend these books. The storyline is interesting, and offers some great visuals. Once the story hooks you, it becomes one of those books that you drag everywhere with you, and don’t go to bed, because you need to know what’s going to happen! The other two books are excellent as well. There are many debates about how the trilogy is ended, not everyone likes it, but that’s not unusual. No one ever really wants a series they enjoyed to end, and in a story like this one, there are probably a lot of different ways people would have liked to see the story end.
Trust me, buy the trilogy, because odds are you’re not going to stop at one. And from the number of adults snapping up mockingjay pins, I’m definitely not alone in enjoying the series. It’s a fun read, is really what it comes down to. Don’t read it for great literature, or thought provoking philosophy. Read it for the book equivalent of an Indiana Jones movie, or Star Wars. It’s a great adventure story, and well worth the purchase. It is available on e-book, too, which is nice.