Why I’m Not (Very) Bothered that a Certain Retail Bookstore Chain Isn’t Stocking My New Book

The Pickwicks' Picnic
Cover, The Pickwicks’ Picnic

The Pickwicks’ Picnic won’t be on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. It’s available via their online store, and it’s available from other online retailers and many, many independent bookstores. Perhaps I should be worried that B & N chose not to stock my book–but I’m not (much).

There used to be a very nice B & N around the corner from me, but it didn’t survive the last round of closures. So it’s not like I will be going over to my neighborhood B & N store to look wistfully at the space on the shelves where The Pickwicks’ Picnic should be. I haven’t been inside a B & N in over a year.

I don’t miss it, is the weird thing. And I doubt that my neighbors do either. There are a score of top-notch independent bookstores near me–none that I can walk to from my house, mind you, but still easy to drive to. And there’s always the option of buying online. My book is easy to find there. Have a look at one option.

This article from the New Yorker by a guy with the cool name of David Sax, written about a year ago, reveals a lot about why I’m not really missing seeing my book at a B & N store. Some highlights:

. . . sales [at Barnes and Noble] were actually growing in many categories, including board games, vinyl records, and even some categories of books, the non-digital kind (like coloring books for grownups)

My book doesn’t fit any of these categories. For one thing, it is a book. B & N sells lots of things that aren’t books. Which is fine. I sometimes like things that aren’t books.

After two decades in which the number of independent booksellers decreased by half, those bookstores are now coming back. The American Booksellers Association noted a consistent increase in new store openings over the past seven years . . .

See? There are plenty of places to find The Pickwicks Picnic besides that big chain store. MehEven in places where the local B & N is the only bookstore, you can still ask them to stock it (please do!), you can order it, or you can buy it from them online. You can buy it from Powells, iTunes, and so many other places, even online via Target and Walmart.

[Independent bookstores] stock the books that the community wants, and, while their selections are minuscule compared with Barnes & Noble, the staff can speak to the books on those shelves with authority.

No staff member at a B & N I’ve ever been to could hand-sell a beloved book to a reader, or even direct a customer to a specific book off the tops of their heads. Without the computer to search their stock (which I can do myself quite easily, thanks) they didn’t have much to offer in the way of knowledge and rarely showed the enthusiasm you’ll see at an independent store.

Naturally, I’d be very happy if The Pickwicks’ Picnic were available on the shelves at Barnes and Noble for your purchasing convenience, but I’m not going to fret that it’s not. I think it will find its audience.

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Road Trips, c. 1968 (Part two: Roadside Picnics!)

05febde9ea16bad4be4ead6d7c57c9a7Sure, kids have it easier today when traveling–fancy rest areas, turnpike oases, all modern conveniences.

Not so when I was a kid. As I said two weeks ago, often a rest stop was just a gravel turnoff with a place to park, a path leading back to an outhouse, maybe a water pump, and a few scattered picnic tables.

The picnic tables were typically rustic, perhaps dotted with fallen maple seeds and stained bluish-red from berries, but sitting down for lunch at them was nevertheless a treat. Sometimes Mom would have a plastic tablecloth to lay down first. Then the Coca-Cola cooler would come out, filled with juice and pop, and things like cole slaw, potato salad, and sandwiches wrapped in cellophane. Peanut butter and jelly was my favorite. 4c666ef307def775198e3b21ff0a6ffaSometimes the jelly had kind of soaked into the bread and made it soggy–but it was still my favorite.

Retro-Images-Picnic-GraphicsFairyJust like at any picnic, then or now, bees would hover over the pop cans and sparrows would hop up to the table as close as they dared, hoping that a crumb or two would drop to the ground. Being in the open air, free and unbent after having been sitting in a car for hours–most of us can relate to that feeling. Maybe things aren’t so different nowadays after all.

And hey, is there any better way to enjoy lunch?

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