An Indie Bookstore’s Nightmare: No impression is a bad impression

I went to a new bookshop yesterday. It’s one of two that appears to serve the Emory University community. That’s what their Yahoo! Atlanta Attractions page says anyways (they don’t have a website). It’s nice to think that a bookstore serves a college elite demographic, but I wonder if that’s just something bookshop owners say. There was certainly a large selection of nonfiction titles with the kind of required reading you’d expect to find under the subheadings “Politics,” “World Religions” and “Women’s Studies.” But nothing to make someone on the outside want to dip a toe into those pools. Nothing that leapt out.

In any case, I went. I browsed. I thumbed through Anthony Horowitz’s predicted “publishing sensation.” Did you hear? He’s written a Sherlock Holmes novel, the first to be authorized and encouraged by the Conan Doyle estate. I’m sure Horowitz can handle the task, though in the end I didn’t buy it for fear that I might actually enjoy it, and if not, that I’d mourn the lost time. But I might still.

I spent the rest of my visit flipping through Diane Keaton’s new biography, Then Again, and then looking at pictures of the painfully glamorous Grace Kelly in her biography, High Society: The Life of Grace Kelly. I’m tempted actually to read that one. I always get the feeling that the popular image of Kelly is too golden, too fairy tale. To the point that I could believe it if you told me she never existed. That Hitchcock simply wrote her into being on a dare or a bet made with some literary chum.

I bought nothing, you see. Wasn’t even remotely tempted. There’s nothing wrong with Tall Tales as a shop, per say, but that’s just it: “nothing wrong” isn’t good enough. An independent brick and mortar must make an impression, these days more than ever. Even if that impression is a negative one, like the smell of cat urine mingling with an employee’s microwaveable Chef Boyardee lunch. That, at least, adds character. You won’t forget it in a hurry.

Perhaps it was just my mood – I wasn’t feeling it that day. Maybe I’d be more excited about the shop if I were an Emory student, that being the demographic to whom they seem to prefer to cater. In any case, it wasn’t a complete loss. I now have two new titles to consider. But if I decide to purchase them, I will no doubt do so elsewhere.

I’m curious: Do any of you have bookshops like this where your from? Shops that you want to love and support, but just can’t because they fail to make an impression?

And PS: Am I being too harsh?

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1 comment
  1. My favorite local is McKay’s, but they do used books. It sounds like this shop was missing the opportunity to offer what the big box stores won’t, the niche/indy books…I know, big investment, little return, but it’s a shot.

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