Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Signings and My Bookish Heart (Or, I Have to Buy What?)

I enjoy reading, buying books and meeting authors. You would think these activities are compatible with the mission of bookstores. However, in recent times, I've found the act of buying a book has cost me author opportunities.

In January, Ransom Riggs released the second Miss Peregrine book, which I consumed promptly. The author was coming to a Barnes & Noble bookstore near me soon after the book was released, so I finished the book early (to avoid Spoilers some people just can't resist). I brought my stack of Riggs books with me in case he was signing.

When I arrived, a B&N employee informed me that only books purchased that day at B&N would be signed. No exceptions. He was  polite, but firm. After I finished listening to Riggs speak, I left the bookstore with a heavy heart. I didn't want to be duplicitous and buy a book I would later return (which someone suggested). I had read my copy, purchased from a different bookseller, and I was being punished.

Booksellers see customer activity differently than the customer does, and I understand the different perspective: why host (and possibly fund) an event when customers do not need to invest in their company to participate? 

Here is why: veni, vidi, emi. 

If I am in your store, I will buy from you, especially if you're supporting authors I read and enjoy. If I don't buy today, I will be back tomorrow, or the next day I am buying a book (which really is tomorrow, for me).
Yes, the siren song of cheap online books is tempting, and I have more than once dashed myself on those rocks. However, I value the services of bookstores and booksellers. If I support the stores that feature materials I like, they will continue to do so — as will I.
I invest in you, Bookseller, so you will do the same for me.

Only that no longer seems to be the case. The "Great Recession" has changed many merchant practices to stock very little and staff lightly. I have begun confirming stock and reserving books before I enter some bookstores. I mean, why bother putting on pants and leaving the house if I will leave a bookstore empty handed?

So, in a world where books aren't stocked unless there is a Good Reason (movie tie-in or author appearance, for example), readers are stuck between a book and a hard place: buy the book now and lose signing opportunities, or buy the book at an author appearance and lose the opportunity to discuss that book with that author.


I now read a store's fine print regarding author appearances. Where once there were no Rules, now there are many.

I will continue to buy my books when and how I please. I will continue to support local, independent and chain bookstores. I will continue to support authors. If, however, a bookstore looks to separate this reader from an author, this reader will reconsider her relationship with said bookstore.

Bookseller, relax: I will give you money. Just don't command me to do so. Trust my bookish wallet, as well as my bookish heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment