Sunday, June 26, 2011

A bookstore in a non-reading world is a tough road.

Why does it bother me that so few people read? Why does it bother me that so few kids read?

As I've said before, if parents bought books as often as they bought candy, I'd be a wealthy man.

But, ultimately, it's none of my business. I tell myself everyday before I go to work. I don't depend on those dollars, I haven't depended on those dollars for years.

Linda says she has a different perspective -- probably because the people who come into her store are there specifically for books.

But being downtown, I see hordes of people walk by my table of books without so much as a glance.

On Friday, I had 90 people in, about 30 of which were kids, and not one kid looked at a book that I could see. Not one parent offered to buy their kid a book. Not one. (I heard multiple mentions of toys and candy and video games.)

Shudder. Twitch.

Like I said, none of my business.

Update: Yesterday was pretty good. I think it really helps to have my cheerful young guys there when these events are happening.

A weird week: 4 days down by half, 2 days double normal, which is -- average.


Anonymous said...

Everything in our current world militates against reading. The need for immediate gratification doesn't allow for the slow "upload" of a book. We are living in a world of increasingly short attention spans. Pretty soon, adults will have the attention span of a four-year-old or a crack addict. Or a four-year-old crack addict.

The level of literacy is declining precipitously. Every day I receive written communications from adult professionals who flat can't communicate with the written word.

Won't read; can't write; no attention span. Swell.

Mike Kentley said...

>But being downtown, I see hordes of
>people walk by my table of books >without so much as a glance.

I look at the books on your table every time I walk by. My kid has graduated from Captain Underpants to Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Soon it will be Foundation and i guess whatever he decides he likes to read.

Duncan McGeary said...

It's not "kids today" so much as it's the adult children of the baby boomers and their kids, both.

There have been some clear divisions over the years.

I went from getting a notice from the city that I must install a bike rack because the kids are piling up their bikes in front of my store to...

No kids at all.

There was a "child abduction" scare in late 80's early 90's , and suddenly kids who were coming into my store wouldn't talk to me. They were coming into MY store but acted like I shouldn't TALK to them!

And so it goes.

Now, if a kid under the age of 14 comes in my store, he's either accompanied by an adult or -- I'll ask, "Do your parents work downtown?" or "Are your parents in another store?"

And the parents won't let the kids read anything that isn't Exactly designed for That age, and Exactly the right content or title.

I think there should be a bit of randomness and chance and misfires and experimentation. I tried all kinds of things -- especially things that were supposed to be over my head. Sometimes those were the best of all.

(I'm not advocating inappropriate material -- but offbeat, slightly older, slightly younger -- I just can't see how that would hurt.)

I had a parent ask if Mad Magazine was right for her 12 year old kid, and I joked;

"That not for YOU to say."

Heck, the whole thing about Mad was that it was something a parent might slightly disapprove of -- even though it was mostly pretty harmless. And that's why the kids liked it, like they were in on a secret joke.

I tell you, nothing is more a kiss of death (for tweeners) than to say, "This is for kids."

So we get this standoff -- what the parents are willing to buy, the kids don't want, and what the kids want to buy, the parents won't.

I think kids are a lot more resilient than most parents seem to think.

Duncan McGeary said...

Remember the "child abduction" scare. It seemed like every other news story was about it -- and it completely changed the way kids move around, and it destroyed Halloween (or changed it radically) and it seemed suddenly like everything was dangerous, instead of innocent and what a shame.

Duncan McGeary said...

And yes, I think it's video games and all the media and the kids feel overwhelmed.

But I still think it's parental malpractice to be more willing to buy candy than buy a book.

Duncan McGeary said...

But it's none of my business.

Duncan McGeary said...

I keep the Foundation 'trilogy' and all the other Foundation books in stock; as well as the Heinleins and Clarkes, and so on.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"Remember the "child abduction" scare."

I sure do -- all those pictures on milk cartons. And didn't it turn out that about 90% of those abductions were cases of a parent abducting the child from the other parent in a custody dispute?

H. Bruce Miller said...

"I think it really helps to have my cheerful young guys there when these events are happening."

Yeah, that grumpy old guy with the beard scares the kids away.

Anonymous said...

Most people I know in bend read books. I'm sure most people in this forum do as well.

Well the buggy-whip analogy has been carried before dunc, how long will you sell? But then again you sell comics and games, so your well diversified.

Honestly, I think Bend has too many bookstores, which is why the majors failed, mostlty cuz of 'boutiques', e.g. wives of rich men running a biz, ... too many of these in Bend.

H. Bruce Miller said...

"Honestly, I think Bend has too many bookstores"

Concur. Hobby businesses, many of them, as you say. "Oh, wouldn't it be fun to have a bookstore?" (There's also the advantage of being able to run household expenses through the business, making them tax deductible -- quite illegal, but almost every small business owner does it to some extent.)