Marissa Lingen (mrissa) wrote,
Marissa Lingen
mrissa

Independence

I like specialty bookstores best. I like going in and knowing that the clerk has read some stuff I've read, that the clerk has some idea of what kind of books they're trying to sell, that even if we have different opinions, the clerk will have opinions about the stuff I have opinions about.

Some people keep trying to claim the virtues of specialty bookstores for independent bookstores, though, and I just haven't been buying it. I go into "mainstream" or "general" independent bookstores, and for the most part I don't see the diversity of stock they claim. Some manage it. Most coast by on the same bestsellers you can find everywhere else. Most have clerks who are more into the indy cred of working at an independent bookstore than they are into knowing all their sections well. (If I was into a local poetry scene, I probably wouldn't feel this way, as local poetry seems to be one thing a "non-specialty" independent bookstore will have that's different from the chains.) I've felt that it's all nonsense, this "independent bookstore" thing.

But. I found some things at Schuler's, which is a large general independent, that I haven't seen elsewhere. They had a good big stock of Albert Goldbarth poetry, and they had The Latvians: A Short History. I got those. I also saw the middle book in the K.J. Parker series I'm reading, which is a British import. I'll buy it at Uncle Hugo's instead, but it was good to see something genuinely different in the stock. And they had YAs divided into mainstream and SF/fantasy/mystery, and their "genre" section was large and well-stocked.

So there were things to like at Schuler's. It was doing the independent "general" bookstore well. Maybe the ones I've run into before have just been poorly done, or maybe they've been too small -- Schuler's is the size of a Borders or a B&N, and it has music and a cafe, so it's competing with the big stores on their own turf. It makes me a little more willing to listen when people talk about independent bookstores as though they're the same thing as specialty bookstores. I'll still probably point out that many independents are not the way they describe them at all, but at least I won't have to give people the "what are you smoking?" look.

Where do you buy your books?
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