Elizabeth: Brick and Mortar Bookstores

Hatchards book store in London

This past weekend I took a ramble through the local Barnes & Noble store.  The majority of my book purchases are made online, but I had a gift card and the store was right there, so in I went.

My first stop was the clearance section (and not just because I was raised in a very frugal family).  The section is such a varied mix of books and subjects that something almost always catches my eye.  I was tempted by the Tabletop Catapult: Build Your Own Siege Engine! – I figured I could have hours of fun using it to launch ping-pong balls for the cat to chase while learning about siege warfare – but managed to resist.   I picked up Royal Britain instead, an encyclopedic history of Britain’s rulers and, more importantly, castles and houses and historic buildings.    With over 1,000 colour pictures!  Be still my Regency writing, Britain fancying, history loving heart.

The rest of the clearance section paled by comparison, so I left it behind and continued on to the romance section for my standard hopeful search for new books by my favourite authors that I might have somehow missed.  No luck there, but as I was walking to the cash register via the “fiction & literature” section a book caught my eye:  The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise, by Julia Stuart.   One blurb on the back proclaimed that “history buffs, animal lovers, and simply the tenderhearted will swoon over this captivating story” while another called it “a marvelous confection of a book.”  It was the second blurb that caught me, reeled me in, and convinced me to give the book a try.

Both books that I picked up could have easily been purchased online had I known I was looking for them, but I didn’t know they existed until I physically saw them on the shelf.  There are a number of ways readers find new books / authors – recommendations from friends, best seller lists, publisher promotions, social media posts – but sometimes it can be fun to roam a physical store and see what catches your eye.  Maybe, like me, you’ll find something you didn’t even know you were looking for.

My trip to a traditional brick and mortar bookstore was a success.  I walked out with two new books that it is unlikely I would have found otherwise.  Plus the store validated my parking (that’s $3 right there).  A double win.

So, what’s in your To-Be-Read pile and how did it get there?

29 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Brick and Mortar Bookstores

  1. I love a real bookstore — especially a used bookstore, because you never know what you are going to stumble upon. But, that said, I have to say that Amazon changed my life. Back when Amazon started shipping to Japan, my nearest English bookstore was three and a half hours away, had a limited (but sometimes great — I found Pratchett there!) selection that was priced three times the cover prices.

    I usually find books from recs from internet friends, reviews, and sometimes from Amazon recs . . . I tend to depend more on real people and word of mouth for good books, though.

    (-: I also get a lot of books from “sayonara sales” — there’s four that I really want to read right now, but they are slipping my mine . . . .

    • I love used bookstores too. When I travel I always search them out because, as you say, you never know what you might find. Most of my books (physical books, I’m not an ebook fan) come from Amazon – mostly for the convenience but also because many of the bookstores around here have closed (even the big chain stores).

      The majority of my current TBR pile came from the latest RWA conference I was at. There were tons of giveaways there. Not sure I’ll ever get to the bottom of the pile.

  2. A brick-and-mortar bookstore of any kind—independent or chain—is great for discovery. Just like you said, Elizabeth, strolling around and seeing what captures your eye is a lot of fun and broadens your horizons, too. When I go to the library, I get depressed at the “new arrivals” section, how it’s always empty. It’s great the books are getting read, of course, but empty shelves always say to me that libraries are underfunded. And then there’s Amazon, which I also love as the purveyor of *anything* you’re looking for specifically. But discovery is definitely harder online.

    I just finished “Orange Is the New Black” tonight, btw. Terrific book. It was a gift. I’m not sure what’s next—whatever’s on top of the pile, I guess!

    • Kay, you’re definitely right about discovery being harder online. There is so much out there that it can be overwhelming trying to slog through it to find something new. On the other hand, it’s also great for finding those books you *know* you’re looking for that the physical stores don’t have room to stock.

  3. There are some terrific bookstores in London. Back when I had a day job I moved my team to an office above Daunt’s in Marylebone High Street (take a virtual tour at http://www.dauntbooks.co.uk). It was bookworm heaven.

    I buy most of my books from Amazon, because I read a lot of romance, especially US authors, and most bookstores here don’t carry the stock. I go into bookstores if I want to browse and be surprised. Most of the time I’m looking for a specific author or title and then Amazon is really the only way to go.

    I’m reading Gail Carriger at the moment (originally recommended by Rachel Beecroft here), I bought The Rosie Project because it’s had so many good reviews, and I read Jill Shalvis last night after reading a post on Smartbitchestrashybooks. And I’ve been re-reading The Thief and Cordelia’s Honor after talking about them here.

    I only took part of my RWA stash home last year because I didn’t have much space in my suitcase. This year I’m going to check out international shipping or take an extra suitcase and go for it!

    • Jilly – I always make sure to hit up the bookstores when in London when I’m there. I always manage to find something I can’t live without, that I couldn’t find here in the states.

      I too picked up The Rosie Project after seeing some great reviews by fellow authors over on Facebook. It’s near the top of the pile to read . . . once I hit my target for getting my own words on the page 🙂

    • I think we’ve swapped books – you’re reading Gail Carriger and I’ve just finished re-reading Devil’s Cub. (It was interesting that Mary shooting Vidal came much later than I remembered it). I’m now reading the Spymaster’s Lady, which has been recommended on about a million sites – I’m enjoying all the action.

      On a completely different note Jilly – are you also a member of the British RNA, as well as the American RWA? Are you aiming to publish primarily in the US market one day? Sorry for my nosiness (spelling?) – I’ve always thought that the US would be my primary target and am really interested to ‘meet’ another British person who might be heading that way.

      • That’s funny! I haven’t read The Spymaster’s Lady but I think I’ll add it to my list. Tonight I’m enjoying myself reading Lisa Kleypas.

        I attend RNA London and National events and I’m a member of the RNA New Writers’ Scheme – you can’t join RNA proper until you’re published – but I’ve always really enjoyed reading US romance authors and I wonder if my natural style may be better suited to the US. I definitely plan to query in the US this year when my re-write is ready, but pre-McDaniel I also had some positive interactions with UK agents so I’m open to that possibility too. Right now I’m just trying to finish my book and to make it as strong as I can – then I’ll work on trying to find it a home.

        • Oh I have just joined the RNA New Writers Scheme (just this month) – did you submit your manuscript last year?

        • Congratulations on getting on to the NWS scheme, Rachel, the places are really limited and it’s an excellent programme. Another friend missed out last year and made it this year. I submitted a manuscript in 2012 and got some very helpful input, but I was embroiled with McD and didn’t have anything new to offer in ’13. I’m planning to get in early this year.

    • Are you going to talk about Cordelia’s Honor, Jilly? I LOVE that book — it’s in one of my top 10 all-time favorite books — and what’s even more amazing is that the first half is Bujold’s first book, and the second half is her . . . I want to say third book; maybe the fourth. (Cordelia’s Honor is an omnibus of *Shards of Honor* and *Barrayar* — and Cordelia is a wonderful, practical, kick-ass heroine in a series of complex societies. It’s kind of like if Middlemarch were set in outerspace and had plasma guns. Sooooo good.)

      • I think maybe you should, Michaeline. You’ve read loads of Bujold and I’m just getting to grips with her complex societies. I like Cordelia a lot but now I really want to read A Civil Campaign because it’s supposed to be such an amazing romance. I’m just a little intimidated by the dozen or so books in between 🙂

        • LOL, my Bujold post would be about the same as any theoretical Crusie post I would write — the fangirl squee would break the glass in computer screens far and wide. But, I will keep it as a reserve, because she does such a nice job with the different kinds of romance.

          Those dozen of books in between? Just take ’em one at a time. They are all stand-alones, and they are all different books. I mean, they are almost all part of the Vorkosigan saga, and there are definite advantages to reading them in universe-chronological order. I love them all, but after Barrayar, you are kind of (sort of) in the shallower-end of the pool with a young man. But slowly, you sink deeper and deeper into a life well-lived until . . . wow. Komarr/ACC is another pair of books that really need to be read as a duology, in my opinion. (I always read Shards and Barrayar together when I’m re-reading.)

          LOL, OK, I’ll stop squeeing all over the place. God, I wish I could write communities as well as Bujold and Crusie. And maybe I can, and maybe I will. Getting off-line to get some practice in right now.

  4. Really, there’s nothing like wandering around a bookstore picking up this or that. Online shopping is fabulous (I tend to buy more of my books online too), but actually feeling the weight of the books in your hand, flipping open the book to read the synopsis on the front flap, running a finger down the smooth pages…*sigh* I think I need to hit my local store, although not necessarily to buy more (my reading pile is sky high right now), but simply to lift the winter doldrums by losing myself for a hour (maybe two!).

    • Kat – I’m a fan of physical books too. Though I do have some eBooks (mostly things that aren’t available in physical form) I still want a real live book in my hands when reading. Hitting the local bookstore sounds like a great way to beat the winter doldrums, even if you don’t walk out with any new purchases.

  5. I do love bookstores, even if I can’t afford anything in them most of the time! I have been seduced by the easiness of e-books, but I never forget to wander around a lovely bookstore when I get a chance and have a spare bit of money 😀

    • I love the bookstores too, though it’s getting harder and harder to find them around here. Part of why I stop and shop there periodically is to help make sure they continue to exist. Now if only there were enough hours in the day to read all the treasures I find 🙂

  6. Also should say that I love proper bookstores but it is amazing how accustomed I have become to browsing on Amazon and how, when I go into an actual bookstore, I’m often slightly disappointed by the (lack of) choice. I NEVER thought I would see the day when I preferred Amazon to a real bookstore (not that Amazon can beat the blissful experience of being in a real bookstore, but for the sheer pleasure of the range of books you can get, you can’t top Amazon.)

    • Rachel – you’re right, the range of books you can get at Amazon is great. They are my “go to” spot whenever I’m looking for something that isn’t one a of the current “hot titles” since my local stores seem to mainly stock the bestsellers and high-profile authors.

  7. I used to spend a lot of time in bookstores, but like Rachel I find I’m often disappointed there these days. I’ve become so spoiled by the outrageous range of choices online that I can rarely find a single book I want to read at a bookstore.

    Also, I clearly spend waaay too much time browsing around on Amazon, because I am always picking up impulse buys there. I often shop by review. If I find a book I like, I’ll look at the reviews and find someone who likes it for the same reason I do. Then I’ll look to see what else that person has reviewed and find all kinds of fun things. For instance, I’m obsessed with Cozy Mysteries these days (although made an exception for the new JAK book this month) so I only go looking for Cozies. Yet, just this month I’ve bought a biography of John Muir, a crockpot cookbook, yet another henna book, one on Enrico Fermi, a collection of holiday novellas, and Richard Leakey’s Origins Reconsidered. Also, twenty or thirty Cozies. 🙂

    • Jennifer – I love Cozy Mysteries too and have picked up a number of them recently. They tend to catch my eye by the book name alone as they are often quite clever. Are there particular authors in this category that you’ve really enjoyed?

      I haven’t had a lot of luck with choosing books based on other people’s reviews, though I do sometimes read the reviews after I’ve read a book, just to get an idea of what other readers thought of it. Sounds like your browsing has been quite productive though – should keep you busy reading for a while.

      • Yes, I remember that you also like Cozies. You may remember that I was trying to write a Cozy-ish romance. That book has evolved into… something else. I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out which niche market it falls into until it’s complete and revised. I’m still having fun with it!

        Cozies I’ve enjoyed… well, there are a lot. If you’re looking for recommendations (and *I* certainly am- any Cozies you recommend?) it would be good to know what your preferred flavor is, if you know what I mean. Here are some of my favorites:

        Magic themed (actually, these are both clothes themed too):
        -Juliet Blackwell’s Witchcraft mysteries (be warned, these are more racy than many Cozies)
        -Annette Blair Vintage Magic mysteries (although the series end was rushed, IMHO)

        Clothes themed:
        -Duffy Brown Consignment Shop mysteries (Southern flavor. This series started slowly for me, but I’m enjoying it now.)

        Food themed:
        -Krista Davis Domestic Diva mysteries (HIGHLY recommend these- well written, great characters)
        -Jenn McKinlay Cupcake Bakery mysteries (fabulous characters, love this hero)
        -Avery Ames Cheese Shop mysteries (next one out next week, yay!)

        Pet themed:
        -Krista Davis Paws and Claws (just getting started, but looks like a cute little series in the making)
        -Ali Brandon Black Cat Bookshop Mysteries (this series was a slow start for me, but I’m beginning to suspect that cop may be delightfully complex)
        -Judi McCoy Dog Walker mysteries (ummmm, these are not for everyone, certainly only for the pet-maniacs. A psychic dog walker, and the dogs are main characters. Sadly, the author has passed away, so there will be no more of these. Of course, that’s not the main reason that’s sad.. okay, I’m just digging this hole deeper now.)

        Art themed:
        -Haily Lind (aka Juliet Blackwell and her sister) Art Lovers Mysteries (I am obsessed with this series, truly obsessed. If the most recent book was the end of the series, I may have to find a cliff from which to throw myself).

        Lots of others I could suggest, but these are my top tier. I’ve downloaded another dozen Kindle samples, too, so I’ll be choosing some more new series soon!

        • Some great recommendations there – I know what I’ll be checking out this weekend. I’ve read the Jenn McKinlay Cupcake Bakery mysteries and enjoyed them. She also has a library series that I liked even better and I just finished Cloche and Dagger, which is the start of her new series of hat-shop mysteries set London.

        • Yes, I read the library series a few weeks ago. I liked it a lot, especially with the later addition of Robbie to the cast of characters- what a charmer! The library series has good characters, but the first book in particular has a cold, somewhat desolate ambiance, which is why it falls below the cupcake series in my ratings.

          I read Cloche and Dagger, too. One book is not enough for me to decide how I feel about a series, though. Fingers crossed this is another good series from McKinlay!

  8. I miss bookstores. No two ways about that. I love being surrounded by all those new worlds, each waiting me to discover and explore its unique lands.

    What I wish is that I could meander the aisles and, as I find each new discovery, press my e-reader up against the shelf and buy my electronic copy *from* *that* *store*. Imagine being able to support your local bookstore, while still keeping all the benefits of using your e-reader.

    • Gosh, that’s a great idea, Scott. You know what would be equally fun? A coffeeshop with those sorts of barcodes. You go in, get a cup of chai, look through the story menu, and choose a short (or long) story to go with your drink. Sigh. Heaven for 20 minutes.

      (One of my daydreams is to have my own cafe/bookstore/import shop and English conversation salon. But I think I’m too cranky to run a coffee shop with actual customers. Maybe I could get a waitress to handle those parts. I’d just make cookies and make sure the tea and coffee cupboard was stocked. Since I live 20 km from any sort of civilization, I could write between customers, LOL.)

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