There is a graphic of a tweet doing the rounds as I write that says:
“Escape room idea:
Just a well-stocked bookstore with clearly marked exits. You have one hour to get out. Good luck.”
For most of us who are bibliophiles, the outcome would be no escape. And we’d be perfectly happy with that.
But it got me thinking. What is my idea of the ideal bookstore? I came to an interesting conclusion, thinking of the various bookstores I’ve visited. There is no single ideal. I’ve visited “hole in the wall” bookstores that I have really loved, bookstores in houses, bookstores in converted storage buildings, indie stores, and chain stores and liked them all. I think of a tiny paperback store in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan that had a stash of great vintage science fiction. I’ve visited great new book stores, used book stores, and some that sell both. Probably my best answer would be: they have books!
But if you pressed me, here are a some things that make a store one to which I want to return:
- It is distinctive, even if part of a chain.
- It has engaging booksellers who actually seem interested in helping you find the next great book. I still remember the booksellers at Acorn Books, now closed, as some of the best. By the same token, I’ve interacted with a number of Barnes & Noble booksellers who went to great lengths to track down books their online site says are available but I could not find–in one case locating a book in a stockroom that had not yet been placed on the sales floor.
- They have a selection that goes beyond the popular books that I either have or don’t want.
- In my case they have strong sections in science, history and biography, crime fiction, science fiction and literary fiction, and religion and philosophy. I always remember my first visit to a Borders that had all of these. I thought I was in book heaven.
- Sometimes, it is the unique vibe of the bookstore. I think of one small store in a college town that is incredibly well curated, both in terms of new titles, and “consigned” titles, many from college professors. My kind of place!
- A bookstore cat adds to the ambiance of any store. This might be something for Barnes and Noble to consider as they try to reinvent themselves!
- I love used bookstores of any time, but the ones where the books are actually organized in some semblance of order, and where stock has been dusted some time in living memory is a plus.
- I think of stores that are great family places, where you, your spouse, and your children of different ages can all find interesting books.
- While cafés are nice, some are pricy and make me choose between that frappuccino and that book. Just give me comfortable seating scattered around the store where I can browse books I’m considering purchasing.
- I enjoy stores where the booksellers have made recommendations, either in sections or on notecards by the books. I’ve bought books for on the basis of that.
- Of course, because I read a lot, I always like finding books at a discount. I have found how much they depreciate when I try to sell them. I’ve also come to appreciate that only sales of new books provide royalties to the author.
I could go on but I suspect you have come up with some other qualities of great stores. I hope you will add them to this post in the comments