In addition to writing books, two of us moosers here on the highway also sell 'em. Leila works for a quaint little children's bookshop in New Zealand, and I work for the uber-chain Barnes & Noble in Texas, a state where "little" is pretty much an illegal word. It's big, ya'll. Real big.
So we thought it would be fun to share some stories, some secrets, some inside info on two incredibly different bookstores on opposite sides of the globe. Here's a little scoop on what's going on in the Big Bad B&N this holiday season.
Peek under the cash registers. It's like looking under a teenage boy's mattress.
Yup. Nudie mags. All kinds, tucked neatly behind the cleaning supplies like we're hiding them from Mom. Apparently, the most popular request at my store is the Playboy where Marge Simpson was the centerfold.
Speaking of...that, we card.
If you want to browse the sexuality shelf, make sure you have an I.D., and you're over 19. A co-worker told me he found a 10 year old boy reading the Kamasutra with great interest. When he told the boy he wasn't allowed, the boy cried, "But my mom and dad won't tell me about this stuff – where else am I supposed to learn it?"
It's fair and balanced like Fox News.
Our current events shelf is dominated – dominated – with right-wing propaganda. Not information. Propaganda. Today's featured book: Obamanomics: How Barack Obama is Bankrupting You And Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses. Laura Bush and Mike Huckabee have both done book signings at my store. I do not believe Hillary Clinton would be so welcome.
I'm interested to see, when I move up to the northern U.S., if the shelves are so heavily liberal. Either way, it would be nice if people could have the option of reading books that don't confirm their worst fears, and rather simply provide them with information from another perspective.
Covers that make you look twice.
Let me start by saying, I am all about revamping covers to give classics a new look that will appeal to another generation of readers. But this new version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice – front and center on the YA feature shelf – definitely made me do a double take:
I don't have to say it. You see. You know. And again, I love, love, love that Austen is so proudly displayed in a place where teenagers will notice her, hopefully pick her up, and discover her magic. That makes me so happy. But I have to say it. This marketing ploy gave me an ouchie on my soul.
We're all doomed anyway, why is this so scary?
Most frightening book in the store...the new Stephen King? Nah. Try Christmas Stories for Children...by Glenn Beck.
I'm far too terrified to open it. However, I'm guessing that Santa finally gets his comeuppance for delivering an equal amount of presents to all the children of the world.
Buy a nookie, get a cookie.
First off: it's nook. No article, no capitalization. Barnes and Noble's answer to the Kindle. And seeing one, along with the huge selection of stylish covers to cradle it in, is enough to send me into a fit of consumerism. Want. One.
You can't get your nook by Christmas, but once you do have it, when you walk into your local B&N a little café coupon just might pop up on the screen. Right now, it's for a free cookie. And isn't that worth the $250 you've contributed to the downfall of paper books?
This is why we write.
I've had the pleasure of helping several people, adults and children, find books, which is by far the best part of the job. But the scene that sticks in my mind most so far was the 13-ish year old boy who approached the cash register with a stack of four books. As I rang them up, his eyes traveled over the shelf behind me.
"Oh...can I see that one?" he asked, pointing to a copy of the latest 39 Clues. I handed it to him, and he stared at the price, doing mental calculations.
"Can I trade this one for this one?" he said finally, pointing to one of the books in his stack.
"Sure." I rang the new book up, and he watched with a kind of forlorn look as I placed the other book in a box behind me. He handed me his membership card (yes, he had a membership card!), and started counting out ones and change all crumpled up in "allowance-kept-in-a-sock" fashion.
Then I told him the total with the membership discount, and his whole face lit up.
"Oh, wait...I have enough to get all five!"
And sure enough, he did, by about a dime. He walked off with five brand new books and a huge smile, and I left work ready to write something, knowing that there's kids like that out there to read it.