Working in Bookstores

Someone wrote in to I Love Books asking what it was like to work in a bookstore. Here’s one answer:

You don’t sit around and read and discuss literature all the time when you work in a bookshop. You do tell customers where the latest Mitch Albom book is a million times a day. You learn to identify bestsellers by cover color. People insist they have just seen a certain book in paperback at another shop and your explanation that the book has only been out in hardcover for a month and will likely be in paper within a year is listened to with disbelief and an insulting air indicating you are a moron AND a liar. You listen to people tell you they could get every title in your shop more cheaply at Sam’s Club. You learn the inner significance of the deep philosophy in science fiction and fantasy titles. You get lectures about why a certain author is or is not fantasy or science fiction and how only feeble minded idiots would mis-shelve them as dismally as you and your colleagues have. You sometimes get to handsell a book you believe in to a person who might actually enjoy it. You watch terrific books languish on the shelves and eventually get sent back to the publisher while Nicholas Sparks titles must be reordered bimonthly. You become expert at finding the most popular TV talk and news show sites on the web instantly because customers want “this book they were talking about on the Today Show, it was written by a general? Someone in the military anyway.” You become accustomed to being called a liar when you tell someone a certain book is out of print. “It can’t be out of print, (you are informed.) It was only published 5 years ago!” You learn every single day that (1) Amazon has it cheaper and (2) Amazon doesn’t charge sales tax.