Monday, 21 December 2009

Eyecandy Monday - now with added schadenfreude

While I was away, Borders UK bookstore chain went bust.

Borders was the first of a new breed of bookstore in this country: the first one I'd ever come across that included a coffee store and magazine section inside and tried to pretend it was public library. Now it's gone -  or nearly so. In our local branch it's like a rugby scrum as books are sold off at 70% discount, and even the shelving is for sale.

Forgive me for not feeling sorry.

Back when Black Lace decided to rebrand itself as erotic romance, Borders duly moved all its BL books into the Romance section, and for a few heady months - Wow! Ordinary female readers could find us easily! We could be browsed!   Then we vanished again: someone at head office had made the decision to return us to where they thought we belonged - back in the cubby-hole beneath the stairs, next to the forensic pathology books with the pictures of mutilated corpses. And when I went in to ask what had happened, the assistant in charge of the romance section didn't even have the courtesy to come down from the staff room and explain what had gone on.

So, I weep not.

In Bearskin my heroine works in a bookstore and hates it:

Our chain is the sort that pays minimum wage yet only employs graduates, so that they can bring their years of education to bear on the challenge of shelving books in alphabetical order and coping politely with customers who are "Looking for a book, it was talked about on the radio last week, it’s by Patricia someone and it’s about this woman who goes to America - I think there’s something about flowers in the title, but it might be fireworks or something like that, you know?" This job was driving me out of my mind, all right.

Which is based squarely on the reportage of one of my friends who was in the biz.


Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

Our local Borders actually stopped selling erotic books altogether. And I know they sold well, because I used to a) see people sneakily buying them and b) when I'd go back the next week or month, the books would be all different.

Of course the other problem with Borders is that they simply outpriced themselves. Their DVD section often had items with a bigger mark-up than HMV, but unlike HMV they never had particularly good deals, like 3 4 15 quid.


Jeremy Edwards said...

I have great sympathy for your heroine, as I worked in a bookstore for many years. It's a dream job, of course, because you just get to sit around and read all day—or so people think. (Just like in libraries.)

That customer with the book on the radio is very familiar to me. I'm a little hurt that she began shopping at your friend's store instead of mine. ; )

Janine Ashbless said...

I did talk to one of the Borders employees and he was remarkably sanguine about it. He said "Yes, it was a shock. But these things happen: things change and you go with it and move on."

I bet he was philosophy graduate.

Madeline Moore said...

I'm wondering if it's really true - that soon there'll be no more print books.

I worked in a University bookstore (receiving) during my student days. It was a dream job. I'd come in in the morning with newspaper, coffee and a smoke and read from the paper to my coworkers while they - um - worked.

My favourite was a girl looking for a book for her English 101 course that 'had a red cover'.

The best part about working in a bookstore, besides purchasing my own textbooks after hours, so no standing in line fainting and so on, was knowing the author/title of EVERY book. I always looked brilliant at parties, where someone might say, 'I loved "As I Lay Dying" and I'd say, 'AH yes, Faulkner so's uplifting.' HAR HAR chug chug puff puff.

Maybe I didn't look *brilliant* for all that long...

love you Janine, happy hols.