Dear Barnes and Noble,
We need to talk. Something has been bothering me for a while, and I feel like it’s time for us to discuss our differences. I’m becoming increasingly disinterested in shopping in your stores, and I’d like to try to explain myself. I want you to understand why a bibliophile hates your store.
I love books. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I adore books, and I love to read. I love nothing better than curling up with a good mug of tea and a wonderful book. You do sell books; I’ll admit that. And you do sell some good books too. I visited one of your locations this past weekend, and I noticed some lovely books on your shelves.
But there are some things about your stores that bother me. First of all, I do not like that i have to go upstairs to find the proper literature. I have nothing against maps or journals or cafes or movies or music. (I might have a problem with candles and such however…) However, it bothers me that I have to go upstairs to find the real books…you know, the fiction books and the nonfiction books. I want to buy the books about history and religion and sci-fi and poetry. I like those books. Those are the books that I want to buy.
If I wanted to buy a puzzle, I’d go to a toy store. Actually, that’s true of many of your products. If I wanted to buy toys or games, I’d go to a toy store or a place like Target. I go to a bookstore to buy books. When I walked into your store this past weekend, I was looking for Fury by Salman Rushdie, but you didn’t have it. I wanted to buy all three books of C.S. Lewis’s Space Triology, but you only had Perelandra, which is the second book. The second book is useless without the first and the third books. I wanted to buy books, but you didn’t have them. However, you did have PLENTY of Star Wars paraphernalia. It seems to me that you care more the people who want to buy a Darth Vader cookie jar than people like me who want to buy a Sue Monk Kidd book in paperback. (I prefer paperbacks to hardcovers because they’re easier to throw in my purse.)
I’m getting sick of finding toys and games and things that aren’t worthy of a bookstore. Bookstores are happy places. They are supposed to protect our souls. Cookie jars do not protect our souls no matter how delightfully nerdy they may be.
We are what we read. If we can’t access good books, then how are we supposed to become good people? I like puzzles and board games; don’t get me wrong. But I don’t want those things in the sacred temples of the bibliophiles. I want my sacred temples to be safe havens, places where I can escape a consumeristic society and just focus on becoming a more perfect version of myself. I want to find my sacred temples as warm, welcoming places, place that are quirky. They should be places where children can discover new worlds and adults can escape into old familiar havens or new adventures.
That is not how Barnes and Noble makes me feel. It feels like a store, not a shop. It is not a temple or a haven; it is just a place where people go to buy stuff. It feels frenzied. It feels busy. It feels money-oriented. It doesn’t feel like a place where I could curl up with a book and rediscover my childhood or conquer an unknown world.
Oh, Barnes and Noble, these days, I only visit you with a gift card in hand, and I suspect that trend will endure in my life. You are not a shelter or a haven or a temple for me. You are a gateway to a sacred world, but you are a gateway that is cluttered with many distractions from the sacred world. A bookstore should not distract us from the books in any way. Instead, the sacred temples should do nothing but point us to the holy objects-the books.
It is for this reason that I will give my custom to the small, locally-owned stores. They may also have to order the Space Trilogy for me, but they are focused on the sacred objects. They know what matters in the world of literature.
One who worships at the altar of literature
Please patronize the locally owned book stores, the proper bookshops. They are owned or perhaps more rightly curated by those who also worship at the altar of literature with us. They understand the world of literature, and they will support us in our quest for the best literature that life has to offer us.