In Which We Issue A Challenge To Think Differently

April 28th, 2005 · No Comments
by Booksquare

You want to know what makes us cranky? Other than that. Supermarket design consultants. Like any addict, we supplemented our regular book purchases with novels slipped in with the fruits and vegetables. It was a win-win situation for us — we got books, the husband got food.

Then a funny thing happened that ruined our perfectly good gig. Someone thought, “Hey, let’s move the books to the other side of the checkout lane.” Now instead of slipping down aisle two (or skirting around back by taking the bread aisle), we stare balefully at the book selection as we make our way out of the store. It’s really, really hard to justify standing in line a second time when, technically, we don’t need another book. Making a special trip, having a second charge pop up on the card, that might force us to explain why the piles and piles and boxes and boxes of books that haven’t managed to get themselves read (not through lack of effort on their part) aren’t good enough. Some people will never understand that’s beside the point.

Grocery stores (ours notwithstanding) are selling more books than ever. Sure, it’s not a perfect system:

Bookstore owners complain that grocery stores, like warehouse clubs, are killing bookstores and possibly the book business, too. By focusing almost exclusively on best sellers, grocers do not support the thousands of lesser authors whose books are carried at independent and chain bookstores, the critics say. Nor do supermarkets carry large selections of older books, or the backlist, which for most publishers is the most profitable portion of their business and which often supports their publishing of newer, less-known authors.

The supermarkets do not apologize for that. They want to carry what sells, plain and simple.

We wonder if this is entirely true. It seems to us that grocery chains, with their local focus (Hey! We’re part of your community!) might offer more opportunties for regional authors. There might be opportunity to introduce readers who don’t frequent independent bookstores to interesting works. Like all new opportunities, there is a chance for creativity here. Heck, smart independents can leverage the deep pockets of grocery chains to enter into co-promotions.

Rather than lamenting the fact that there’s a growing venue for book sales, look at ways to use them to your advantage. Look at who’s buying the books in grocery stores, and then try to convince us that buckling the kids into car seats, driving, finding parking, unbuckling, trying to find something interesting to read while wrangling said kids (who historically make lousy bookstore browsers until they recach cetain age), standing in line, paying, rebuckling, driving, repeat for each errand increases the likelihood of certain customers stopping by the bookstore.

File Under: Square Pegs