Deadly Ever After

Real Madness: The Trip to Barnes & Noble

TODAY’S BREW: Irish Coffee & Chocolate Cherry & Dutch Chocolate because I drink so much coffee. So much.

by Julie

Yesterday I kept my 6year old home from school because the calendar said no school when there actually was school. This is neither here nor there. I had planned for our special day off to go to a shopping plaza about 45 minutes away that we enjoy together. The car ride is always fun because my kids listen to good music. We go to the little toy store there, and we loved to go to Barnes & Noble. Both my kids love books, and the 6 year old reads at genius level. We’d spend two hours or more there, which is a feat with two toddlers. They loved to play with the train table in the kids section, sit with me and read a bunch of books in the reading area, and would tolerate me looking at the Sci Fi books for a while. Then we always end at the cafe for an M&M brownie and we talk like grownups. Our thing. This time, Kristen came along. Yay!

My anger upon entering this “book store” is monumental. It’s not the first time I’ve felt it, but it is the first time Kristen was there to witness it rather than just hear me rave about it for weeks. The outside promises what I want in a book store; big posters of book releases, heavy wooden doors with old fashioned brass handles, a sense of quiet in a mall setting.

What you get, however, is not that.

To my right, the cafe is huge, which I’m fine with. Coffee and books go hand in hand. It would not bother me IF THERE WERE BOOKS AROUND. One small, round table of books that I could mostly get at Walmart is directly in front of me, and to my left, rows of bargain books that nobody ever wanted, surrounded by tables of gifty things, not entirely reading related. Next to the little table of Walmart quality reading is a Nook section. Even now, in its decline, the Nook section is monstrous. Three times the size of any individual book section in the store. As we venture further in, the toy section is enormous. Absolutely enormous. There’s a Lego table that the kids get lost in. There is approximately 10 rows of toys, so many that they are labeled by age range. The very back of the store is as big as the front, and is all music.

Kill me.

I begin my bitchfest with Nook. Sure, you can read a book on it. Is that what’s happening in the Nook section? No. Angry Birds. Angry Birds is happening. Wreck It Ralph is playing on a monitor. Not one kid there is reading a book, and there are plenty of kids there. I allowed this for a few minutes. At one point Bennett, the 6year old, says “hey, you can read books on this!” Yes, yes you can! He tries, but Sam, the 2year old, knows what a touch screen is and is all over it, ruining the experience for Ben as it were.

My kids know books as something to fall into, something to hold and smell and love. Not something you can play Angry Birds on.

The toy section and the abysmal Lego table completely distracted Bennett from ever even looking at books, no matter how much I prompted. Sam did read a bit with me, but soon wanted his brother. Way to set an example. Again, Bennett loves to read. So this setup is actually detracting from his willingness to do so. It turns the area into a babysitting zone. Note: I cannot leave Walmart or Target with these kids without first sitting on the floor and reading them books in the book sections at their request. In an actual book store they couldn’t care less. Fail, Barnes & Noble, hideous, murderous fail.

Then, when I finally make it to the Sci Fi section, a strong half hour in to this trip, I can literally stand in one spot and see the entirety of it. I can read every title if I spin in a circle and crouch down occasionally. I talk to myself about how horrible this is, making a fool of myself, I’m sure.

Now, as a book lover, I can always find something to read. But this is the second time I went to the store with a list, and could not find one title on it. Not one.  At Borders, you could order whatever rare missing title couldn’t be found. You could even order used copies of titles they carried to make out a little cheaper, and this was for all to see, not a service that had to be hunted down. The monitors were right there to use. That feeling of digging out a treasure extended to it.

Standing in the Sci Fi section, I felt like a rock star being able to point out the authors to Bennett that I talk to on a daily basis, commenting on whose book was due out next, and how I’m working at keeping company with them. These lesser known brilliant writers should be showcased on that damn Walmart table as you walk in. The “look what we found” writers that a frigging book store should be promoting. Instead we give more attention to the authors you can find at Target to make a buck.


How about a “Hey, If You Like This Piece of Sell-out Crap, You Surely Will Like This Fresher Piece of Lesser Known Brilliance” section? How about we promote, as book peddlers, inspiration and love of the damn written word? How about we help keep the business of books in business by showing how critical it is rather than hiding it behind a bunch of toys? What the hell is this doing for literacy?

Children who grow up with books in the home even if they aren’t ever read, are proven to be more intelligent. Children who see parents reading and writing are far more likely to read and write themselves, and you don’t need me to tell you that. If a kid can’t see the difference between me reading a book or reading my email off of a screen, who the hell does that benefit?

Sorry. I could do this for another 1000 words but I won’t. Not today. This madness has gone on long enough. But please, tell me what you love, abhor or want to burn at your local Barnes & Noble/ other very important book store.



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16 thoughts on “Real Madness: The Trip to Barnes & Noble

  1. caliccardi on said:

    Ah so you went to Gift-o-Rama & Not so Nobel… I dislike that franchise with such a passion. If you are ever in need of a puzzle or something with a Harry Potter logo on it, that the place to go. Looking for a ‘not so out-of-print’ book, well you are F! and the drive-thru on that one. They don’t sell books anymore….

    ok, I take that back… If you want to learn Yoga, buy ANY magazine EVER published in any given week or have a thing for Tween book written about the same shit over and over, then by all means B&N is the place to go…

    Sadly enough though, Border… *sniff sniff* (in comes my manly moment of shameless wet eyes) is gone! I loved you, you book selling powerhouse!

    As a writing, I hope to sell a book one day.. If books still exist and people have an attention span longer than a 160 character update…

    Ill go is in the corner now and just be mad.. and I wasn’t even f%^$#Ig with you LOL

    • You are hilarious and correct and cry all you want because it’s a goddamn shame. For more shame, one copy of Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, infinity copies everywhere of all books I can buy at Walmart.

  2. ElisaQueens on said:

    I walk into B&N and immediately stop, for there lies all of the books which are on sale. I scan through them and if I like something I buy it. If not I have my fave bookstores which are still bookstores, not a toy/nook/food/pen/keychain/poster store. Good job. ; )

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is why I don’t go there anymore. I order online. And that’s just sad that I have to do that. I used to love going to Barnes & Noble, waaaay back when it used to actually focus on books, and just browse and browse for hours, finding new authors I didn’t know about. Now? Nope. Doesn’t work like that.

  4. I agree, Julie. So totally agree. We use to have a Borders next door to the Sam’s I go to and one in the Mall I go to. Both are gone. Their toy sections were small! I could go bankrupt in a bookstore, Borders was my favorite. I’ve been two 2 Barnes and Nobles, I can’t stand their piles of toys. It’s a bookstore not a toy store!
    EReader, Nook things, I do like to read from them, I don’t need to carry the large book around, or need a flashlight. I do love a good old fashioned book though. I’ll shut up now don’t want to rant over yours. 😀 HUGS for enduring it.

  5. The saddest thing in my book is that Barnes and Noble is the ONLY bookstore (other than the “adult *ahem* bookstore”) within 25 miles of my house. There is no independent store for me to shop at without driving nearly an hour to get there. If I had a choice, I’d never go back to B&N.

    My daughter is also a HUGE reader. She has a Kindle Fire, and does play games on it, but she reads just as much. This month she’s read half a dozen books. She came home from school today with plot notes scrawled in red ink all over her hand, for a novel she’s planning to write. She is 12. Even she is disappointed with the giant games and toys section.

    • We have a couple of little book stores, mostly “fell off the truck” stuff in the area, but if you want anything new, it’s B&N for you!
      What a wonderful thing that is about your little girl! All of those things! Put a huge smile on my face! To be that inspired at such an age…she has learned from the best, my friend. Congratulations, Mommy. x


  6. The Dying Breed… I miss Borders, I miss Barnes and Noble before the age of e-books. While e-books and the internet bring us great wonderful authors that wouldn’t/couldn’t be published otherwise, I miss the real live book. I miss the book store. We have a Barnes and Noble not far from my house that is exactly as you describe, but that one, fortunately does focus on the physical book over the e-reader.

    However, you can tell it is a dying breed.

    With a cafe and free internet, it is usually filled with college kids, or gamers that have no other connection to the internet than the local B&N. (I watched a guy play World of Warcraft for over 2 hours one day.)

    Thanks Julie for posting this, it is so very true. Sorry for your frustration though. I know it sucks.


    • I’m convinced we aren’t the last of a dying breed of actual book lovers. With so many blossoming writers out there, piles upon piles of unread queries in agents’ inboxes, and the desperate need young people will always have to find their voice, not to mention the explosion of YA and NA books, how can we deny that there is a need for the actual written word? *gets off of soapbox*


  7. Reblogged this on Zoey Derrick and commented:
    The Dying Breed of Books.. Thanks Undead Duo for this story. It is so very True!

  8. I like to support brick and mortar stores. Why? Because people need jobs. I would rather drive 25 miles to buy real, actual books I can hold in my hand then order them off line or have an e reader. I know I’m a dinosaur in that respect, but it’s the same reason I don’t go through the self scan line at the supermarket. People need jobs.

    Another frustration is in these small genre sections, the alphabetization is horrendous. One one side of the teen section, I picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bone. All the way on the other side of the section, Julie picked up its sequel at the same time. No rhyme or reason to either placement. So if you didn’t know the two went together, you’d never know. When I wanted to buy books 2 and 3 of Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners series a few months back, they weren’t in R. They were at the beginning of the romance section, not because they were being showcased or anything. They were just hanging out on the bottom shelf. What?

    I mourn Borders. In Borders, fiction was all around. In B&N yesterday, I had to search for general fiction. I never saw a full on reference section (I’m a nerd who likes non fiction). If you’re not a celebrity or a well known author with a book they overstocked, be prepared to have people frustrated finding your books.

    As a veteran of retail management and merchandising, sale goes in the back. Cheapos are going to be cheap. You make them walk by the new, full priced things to entice them into buying the new stuff. You don’t put the golden goose in the front of the store and then wonder why no one looks at anything.

    Literacy and the mangling of the English language are already at alarming levels. Don’t dumb down the bookstores.


  9. You two already know what I think of B&N (and what course of action they should take):

    V.S. Blog: Should Barnes & Noble drop the Nook

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