Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's Tough To Own a Bookstore

I snapped this pic just moments after
my visit to Kramerbooks in Dupont
Circle in DC.
Or at least I imagine it has to be tough to own a bookstore. I like to frequent small local bookstores. They always have more character and books piled in weird ways that mean I see more than just bestsellers. One of my favorites is Book Soup in LA. I've been in Washington DC lately and always tend to stay near DuPont Circle so I've hit the Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe a few times. I went in recently to grab one book before my flight so that I had something to read during take off and landing. I'm not really a social flyer so I like to go ahead and kill the hopes and dreams of any seatmates that might want to chat me up. I'm sure they're mightily disappointed, but my type of celebrity is one that leaves me anonymous and sitting in coach, so really it works out for all involved.

I was in the store looking over my options and saw a bunch of books that I wanted. Or at least wanted to add to my reading list. I only had carry-on space for one book, so it was Sophie's Choice all the way. I had to make the tough decisions. Of course, one of the great things about independent bookstores is that they aren't beholden to a corporate mandate on which books get shelved where. So you're more likely to find weird stuff and stuff that staff recommends rather than just what a publisher pays to put on a higher shelf at eye-level, etc. That being said I was finding all kind of books that I wanted to read, so I did what came naturally. I whipped out my iPhone and took a picture of the barcode to add to my GoodReads list.

"I'm sorry but you can't do that in here," said a male clerk about my age or a little younger.

Me: Excuse me? Can't do what in here?

Clerk: Take pictures of the books.

Me: I can't take a picture of this book's barcode to put on my reading list? (Clerk nods) Can I have my cellphone out and type it into my reading list?

Clerk gives me a star and I wonder off because I'm a little ticked and also totally understand. Amazon has made bookstores run for their money because people can go in, find a book they want and in two clicks have bought it--for less money and delivered wirelessly in a minute to their Kindle. It's gotta be hard to sell books. But I'm a book lover and a lover of independent bookstores, so I was still a little sore about this. Then the guy came up to me and said:

Clerk: What reading list are you talking about?

Me: Good reads. It's a website that helps people connect over books, track what they've read and want to read. It's got an app that helps me add books to my reading list.

Clerk: Can you show me? I don't have one of those smartphone thingies. (I chuckled at this because I wasn't expecting that answer from a 30-something male. A 60-something female? maybe).

After I took the time to show him, I ended up buying a book (Anthropology of an American Girl) and the clerk was trying to make me feel better so he through a free t-shirt into my bag. It only made it on my carry-on because it was squishy. So, hey. free workout t-shirt.


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