I used to say I could live at Barnes and Noble bookstore in Melbourne, now I’m beginning to have my doubts. My plan was to hide in the store till closing every night, pitch a cot somewhere amongst the business and science books and then get jacked up on mocha lattes all night while perusing my private library.
That is now getting less appealing since our local B&N is beginning to more resemble the Toys-R-Us just up the street than it does the once hallowed library like atmosphere of nerdliness. For a good coupe of years Barnes and Noble was apparently working right along side my tastes in reading as I could migrate to my favorite section and look at the latest in books on business, finance and entrepreneurship, then move to the other side of the real wood bookcase to view what cutting edge artists were doing with Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, moving over to the web design books, then to a short look through the mind numbing world of computer programming and finally on to some scientist or philosopher’s pontification as to how the universe came into existence out of nothingness.
B&N somehow then decided to replace that entire section with teen fiction which consisted of nothing but ashen faced vampires, with just a hint of sexiness, sucking the life out of each other. When the copy-cat Twilight phenom, along with a few zombie stories and some goofy novels you read backwards, finally ran its course (presumably because literary agents tired of such predictable boy-vampire-meets-girl-non-vampire-while-making-non-vampire-girl’s-dad-a-little-testy plots), then came Lego land complete with bright yellow and red colored plastic shelving.
I’m not sure what other B&N Booksellers around the country are doing (I’ll bet probably the same), but Barnes and Noble in Melbourne Florida has turned at least 25% of its store over to toys, puzzles, games and all things related to mindless kid fun. This is to presumably make happy a guilty mom and dad’s quest to please young junior’s pleading for the latest Lego innovation and to keep them from gnawing on a tired parent’s ankles.
What started as a section with games and a few puzzles, including someone’s twisted idea for a Jackson Pollock puzzle (just plain sick, although it is fun to contemplate who I would give that to), has grown like a blob into a confusing array of stuff (probably ending up under your Christmas tree) that makes the old fashioned book store hard to define any longer. The memories of plush chairs, lots of room, plenty of books, eclectic indie music and the smell of freshly brewed coffee is unfortunately, old school these days. In the spirit of baby Jesus (of course), we must sell to the masses.
I’m sure plenty of so-called market research went into decimating 25% of their floor space of real paper books and turning it over to kid friendly colors and plastic toys that will eventually end up in a landfill or floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in a few months. However, there are customers who appreciate things that somehow were missed by the number crunching accountants-turned-market-researchers who birthed the “new” Barnes and Noble plan.
One of the more aggravating things this new plan has done is seemingly turned the science section into a nomadic tribe of paper, thin cardboard and binding glue that appears to have no home. I’m sure in the last 4 months this genre of books has occupied 4 different, now carpet indented, plots of the store. Just 2 weeks ago I purchased a book from the science section which today has since moved 25 feet to the south. The space it used to occupy is empty, I assume waiting to be filled by more toys.
While I do miss the old bookstore that was a book store, there may be uses for some of this cluster of mishmash aimed at a more Merry Christmas. If you open that mysterious unmarked package under the tree on December 25th morn and it’s a Jackson Pollock puzzle, you will know who it came from.
If I wanted to shop for kid nicknacks I would go to WalMart and wade through the Transformer action figure knock-offs strewn about in the vast toy section amid the new rubber smell of knobby tires on cheap bicycles. Interestingly enough, WalMart has greatly decreased the size of their magazine and book section. I’m hoping this tsunami of non-book related paraphernalia in Barnes and Noble vanishes in a 50 to 75% off door busting stampede on December 26th.