Wednesday, July 09, 2014

My Name Is Nikki Stafford . . . And I Am an Addict

My friends have always ribbed me as the girl with no vices.

I don't drink. I don't drink coffee. I've never even taken a puff from a cigarette. I've never done recreational drugs of any kind. (Seriously, I'm that boring kid at parties.) I don't particularly like ice cream or desserts. I love chocolate, but rarely crave it. I've never bought expensive shoes, and typically find one pair — whether it's a pair of Docs or Clark's — and wear them until the soles are worn off. I don't buy expensive clothes, and prefer jeans and t-shirts. I don't buy expensive handbags: I own a single Coach purse that I bought on sale, and have had it for four years and will no doubt wear it for another 10. Until I got that, I'd used the same $10 Old Navy purse for over a decade. I don't wear jewelry, though occasionally I'll find something really unique and I'll buy it, but it's never more than $50. And we're talking one of those a year. Maybe. I'm constantly joking with my husband that he doesn't know how good he's got it: those credit card bills of ours contain zero extravagances for me.

Well, except for one itty bitty thing...

Back in December, I announced here that I would stop buying books for one year. I acknowledged I had a problem, and I was going to stop buying them by the dozen (no really, I buy armloads at a time) and actually read the hundreds — hundreds — of unread books that surround me on my dozen bookshelves. My house is a library, where there isn't a single room without a book in it. My kitchen is full of cookbooks (which I actually read like novels), as is the pantry in my dining room. My side table beside the bed has so many stacks of books on it that, as I joked to a friend last week, I knock a book off every morning when I try to hit the alarm's Snooze button — because of spending five years taking English lit at university, I got so used to reading several books at once that I still do it. My kids have several bookshelves in each of their rooms. The bathrooms are filled with magazines. The family room and living room have shelves of books. Even the guest bedroom, music room, exercise room and storage spaces have books shoved into every free space. And my office has so many books that every shelf is filled, more books are shoved into the free space on top of the books, the tops of the shelves have books, they're stacked on the floors, and that one shelf where I have put all my Buffy figures? I now eye it daily and think, "OK, Spike, you've fallen off that stand so many times that I should just sweep all of you guys into a bag and use this shelf for BOOKS." But I haven't gotten there yet.

I've read a ton of them. Every shelf probably has 10-15 books on it that I've actually read. But that leaves another 10-15 that I haven't. And that is A LOT.

And so, I decided I wouldn't buy books this year. Nor would I take any out of the library. I was going to make a concerted effort to read what was on my shelves, and see if I could match the 55 books I managed to read last year.

Then I started making exceptions, and that's where addictions always fall apart. I belong to two book clubs (sometimes three), and I said whatever books they chose, I'd buy/get from the library so I could keep up. But that's 24 books right there. Already I'd put a major dent in my Year of Reading From My Own Shelves.

Then, on December 31, I placed an order for 10 books, books that I'd wanted for some time, but now that I'd put a one-year moratorium on my book-buying, I needed them NOW. So after deciding I needed to read some of the hundreds of books on my shelf, I was already up to 10 new ones, and 24 other ones that I'd have to buy/borrow. That left only about 20 that I could read from my own collection. Not even one shelf's worth.

And then, in February, my children's school had a book sale to raise money for their library. The kids begged me to take them there after school, and they looked over the books and I told them they could take what they wanted (I've never put a limit on books). $1 for a paperback, $2 for a hardcover. And that's when I saw JK Rowling's Cuckoo's Calling on a table in mint condition. Wait, $2 for a brand new book? That's amazing! Without even thinking, I put it into the stack of books the kids had chosen and went up to pay for them. It's only as I handed over my money my heart suddenly jolted and I realized, Wait... I can't buy any books!! Oh no... oh no... So I decided I will give this one to my husband. Yes, that's the ticket! I can still give books as gifts, yes? And if it just happens to still be on my shelf next year, why then yes, I can read it. Whew. Crisis averted.

Then my birthday happened. And someone gave me an Indigo bookstore gift card. They were barely out the door before I raced to my computer, heart pounding with excitement, and began filling up my cart. Ooh... I went over the amount. Ah well, it's my birthday, right? I felt my heart beat faster, and my stomach was doing flip-flops of excitement. Two days later the books arrived and I grabbed them excitedly from the mailbox, ripped open the box and smelled them. They smelled WONDERFUL. (This is why I've yet to switch to a Kobo...)

Two weeks later two of the books that I'd worked on as an editor arrived in the mail: Wanna Cook, the Breaking Bad companion guide by Dale Guffey and Ensley Guffey, and Elephant in the Sky by Heather Clark (both astoundingly good books, by the way!) Just seeing a book-shaped package gave me shivers of excitement, and I could barely contain myself as I ripped the package open and handled them for the first time. Shortly after, one of my book clubs had their monthly meeting in a bookstore. I saw books that I wanted so desperately — OMG, so-and-so has a new book?! — but knew I couldn't have them.

And on the way home, I realized no, I can't do this. In fact, I'd more than proven already that I hadn't done this at all. I'd failed miserably. My moratorium on books had lasted all of six weeks before I'd fallen off the wagon, and then when someone gave me a gift I was like an addict.

And that was when I realized something even bigger: I'd always joked that I was addicted to buying books, but I really was. The way alcohol or caffeine or drugs give people a high that they can't get from anything else, that's how I feel when I buy books. There's so much possibility between those covers, so many worlds and new people to meet and adventures to be had. If I choose my books wisely, I'll be introduced to new ways of thinking and new ideas that I'll be mulling over for weeks, months, even years.

So I gave up. I decided no, I'm not wasting a year of my life not doing one of the things I love most. I have friends who are in serious credit card debts over shoe purchases or expensive clothes-buying binges, and that's not me. Books are relatively cheap, and they are WONDERFUL.

I love reading books. But I discovered that I might enjoy discovering and buying them even more. I literally have physical changes when I'm in the midst of purchasing a book: my heart really does race, my stomach gets fluttery. I have a buzz and feel overwhelmed with joy. The smell and look of a bookstore makes me so happy. A couple of weeks ago I was in an independent bookstore in San Francisco with my best friend Sue (who also tried the year-long moratorium and failed equally spectacularly) and it made me realize how much I love and long for independent bookstores. I'll go to a Chapters/Indigo long before I'll buy something on Amazon, but the fluorescent lights and overwhelming smell of Starbucks and warehouse-like look of the place is no match for the soft lighting, smell of old paper, occasional creaky floors, and hand-selling that happens at an independent. The one I found in SF was called Booksmith's, in the heart of the Haight-Ashbury district, and I spent SO much time in there reading the dozens and dozens of cards they'd carefully placed under all their favourite books (not just New Releases but everywhere throughout the store) and was madly writing down titles of books that intrigued me, knowing I couldn't carry every single one of them back to the hotel. I went up to the owner of the store and told him how much I adored his place, and he seemed genuinely thrilled to hear it. I chose a single book by Maud Casey as my prize (based on the card that recommended it), and felt that rise in pulse as I handed over my money for it. After I got home I looked up the store online and discovered there was a whole wealth of bookstores in SF, and maybe I need to make a trip there where I do nothing but shop in bookstores the entire time. Hm... I might actually go into cardiac arrest if I did that...

Many addictions are bad. Whether it's hard drugs or alcohol that have destroyed lives and families, or shopping sprees or gambling addictions that have crippled people financially, or eating disorders that threaten the lives of their victims, we tend to look at the nature of addiction as something uncontrollable and evil, filled with hurt and pain. I've had many friends fight addictions for years, and while not all of them were able to overcome their demons, I'm happy to say many of them have recovered and are leading extraordinary lives now.

I saw my book-buying addiction (and the physical changes, sense of compulsion, and overwhelming high that accompanies it would suggest it is, in fact, an addiction) as something that I needed to curb, that I needed to stop so I could focus on the glorious worlds that currently exist on my bookshelves. But I've come to terms with the fact that I'll never live long enough to read many of the books I currently own, and that I can't stop buying new ones. I can let go, though — when we moved the last time, I probably got rid of 100 books (which I offered up to friends first) — so it's not like a person would come to my house and be tripping over books wherever they go. There is an order to my chaos.

But I love bringing new books home. I love discovering the worlds that exist within them, even if I never actually get to live in those worlds. And when I'm in the midst of a good book — like the one I'm reading right now, actually — it's hard to concentrate on doing much else because all I want to do is read that book. I've always been that person watching prison dramas and thinking, "You know, if I was put into solitary confinement for a year, imagine all the reading I could get done!!!"

So I don't need to curb my addiction. I don't need to curb that thrill of buying new books. I don't need to stop discovering new books. I've never gotten a credit card bill with a book-buying charge on it that was so high my husband's eyes bugged out of his head. He spent more money fixing and rewiring his guitars last month than I've spent all year on books. In fact, the one good thing that came out of the moratorium was that I gained a whole new appreciation for how much I love buying and reading books. I always said I loved it, but now I truly know that it's an essential part of who I am.

In fact, for the first time, yesterday I popped into Chapters online and ordered Rainbow Rowell's new book on the day of its release. (And then had that very 21st-century impatient feeling of, "Geez, I wish they could ship it to arrive RIGHT NOW" about two minutes later...)

And it was so damned exciting.


yourblindspot said...

Aw, Nikki - you only love it because THERE'S NOTHING BETTER.

Rebecca T. said...

When I saw your original pledge I immediately thought - there is no way I could ever do that. I put myself on a 1 book a month restriction for a while and failed miserably as well. I love my books. In my new apartment I can have them all out and around me and organize them how I want and I'm already noticing some holes that I'll have to fill :)

Loretta said...

Nikki--one thing I did this year that has radically altered my book-buying habit (and you in fact alluded to it a bit above) is that I made one of my New Year's Resolutions the promise that I was allowed to buy as many books as I wanted but only from Independent Booksellers. No Amazon, no Barnes & Noble, etc. If an Independent Bookseller didn't have something I wanted in stock, I was allowed to ask them to order it for me. I've found that this has actually curtailed my spending a little; it is of course harder to make my way to the store than to use one-click buying on Amazon, plus the stores are a bit more expensive. But I figure I'm giving back to my community and supporting an important societal service by shopping this way.

And the once every month or two that I do make my way out to an Independent Bookseller, I'm allowed to walk away with dozens of books. And ultimately the experience is so much more fun because I've spent time reading the staff blurbs and perusing the first chapter and feeling the heft of the book.

Marebabe said...

When it comes to expanding my library, finances have always been a huge factor. Lately, I’ve hardly bought any new books due to unemployment, but in our more affluent times, there’s nothing better than browsing through a bookstore and being wildly IMPULSIVE. That’s one thing I always think of when I hear of yet another bookstore closing. If online shopping becomes our only way to acquire new books, there will be a sad decline in wonderful impulse buys. Will there be a virtual bargain table, with tantalizing displays of coffee table books, art and humor books, and a whole world of miscellaneous treasures waiting to be discovered? There’s nothing like picking up a book and flipping through the pages, and looking at the pictures if it has pictures. I take such delight in finding something new and previously unimagined, and feeling the irresistible urge to BUY IT! It’s a bit like falling in love.

Rebecca T. said...

@Loretta - you make a great point about buying from physical bookstores. I just wanted to add one thing - if you (the general you, not you specifically) have independent bookstores near you, then absolutely 100% support them. But if you don't, then please, please, please support any brick and mortar store near you.
I worked at Borders until the bitter end and I cannot tell you what a hole its closing left in our community.
I then worked at B&N and I can tell you that if that company goes out of business (not saying it is in trouble or anything, just positing an "if") it will hurt a lot of people - not just readers, but also employees!
There were no independent bookstores (a small second hand shop just opened in the last couple of months) anywhere in our area, so a chain bookstore was the option. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to have people say - oh, never mind, I'll just order it on Amazon.
It may cost a couple extra bucks, but the physical bookstores need to be kept in business.
(also, a little known fact - at B&N if you order the book in the store and have it shipped to home you'll get the online price, but the store gets the sale - a win/win)

Nikki Stafford said...

Fantastic conversation, you guys! I love reading this. We should have a virtual book club where we talk about book buying and not specific books. ;)

My thoughts on independent bookstores: Love them. Love them to pieces. As I said in the blog post, there's nothing like walking into one of them, and the personal attention you get. I once walked into a big box store -- the flagship Chapters on Bloor Street -- and asked if they had a specific John Irving book, and the woman said, "Did you look under J?" Sigh.

Does that mean anyone who works in a B&N or Chapters is clueless on books? Of course not; those were the early days when they were just hiring anyone because the store had just opened, but now I can go to my local Chapters and there's one guy behind the counter who's a total gamer and can tell me anything about that sort of thing, and a guy always hanging around the graphic novel area and can talk up a storm, and I can walk up to any employee in the place and they can point me in the direction of what I need, or recommend other books.

But independents are different; as Loretta says, we MUST support them because they take the business personally. The store is personalized, the staff remembers you, they handsell you the book they love, not the hot ticket of the moment. From a publishing perspective, I can say that the big box stores charge big bucks to put our books on end cap displays; an independent bookstore will lay it out on the front table BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT.

However, as Rebecca points out, independents aren't a viable option for some people. Walking into Booksmith's in SF was so brilliant because it had been So. Long. since I'd been in a great independent bookstore. Pages in Toronto closed down a few years ago. In fact, even the big box ones are closing; recently I was walking around Queen West in Toronto and bemoaning the fact that without bookstores downtown, I WAS BORED. Scotiabank Chapters was gone. World's Biggest Bookstore (owned by Chapters) was gone. Pages was gone. Record stores were gone.

London, Ontario, where I now live, used to have some wonderful independents. Now we have one. ONE, in a city of half a million people. One independent bookstore that specializes in new books; all the others are used bookstores.

If you're looking for specialty books, however, you can find those, too. I wouldn't buy a graphic novel at Chapters if I could get it at LA Mood, the comic book store downtown that hosts the graphic novel club I go to.

I love LOVE independents, and they're mostly gone.

And I also see what Marebabe is saying about finances. It's so hard to walk into a bricks and mortar store and see a new book, full price at $35, and know that if I go home and order the same book from the same store online that it'll be 40% off. In an age of everyone tightening their belts, it's tempting, and I will admit to having made that negotiation in my head and going home and doing it... (cont'd... wow, I can't remember the last time I had to split up a comment, haha!)

Nikki Stafford said...

BUT... as Rebecca says, the more we do that, the less business the bricks and mortar stores get, and they close. I order from Chapters online, not Amazon, because Amazon has become a real bully. But even Chapters and B&N are bad guys when it comes to publishers, demanding deep discounts on the books that they pass on to their customers, charging exorbitant rates for end-cap displays, recommending books only if the publisher pays them to do so. Barnes and Noble regularly sent messages through our sales reps to us saying they would refuse to stock our books if we put a certain cover on it, and demanded we change the entire design. They knew we'd do it, because of how many books they buy from us.

Publishers are going bankrupt and independents are closing because of the big bullies like Barnes and Noble and Chapters, and yet in the hierarchy of things, I'd still take them over Amazon, which is the biggest bully of all and is threatening to shut down every bricks and mortar store there is in order to push all business online.

The days of the cute little bookstore are almost extinct. The book business is drying up, and people can't make any money. You can't sell a new book at an independent for full price if Amazon is offering 50% off and people know about it. And yet that independent bookstore asked for a 40% discount from the publisher, and Amazon demanded almost 60. And the entire business itself — which, for those who don't know, is still, in the 21st century, entirely on consignment — is ridiculous. We ship 3000 books to Chapters, for example. They only pay us (4 months later) for what they sold, and then they can return the rest or hold onto them for as long as they want without payment. And we pay freight charges to the bookstores. Chapters sells 1000 books, and they owe us now, so they return 1000 books, which evens out the invoice, and immediately order those 1000 books right back, and we have to pay to ship them back and never got paid for the original 1000. That's how the book business works, why authors make very little money, publishers even less, and little bookstores (who actually pay their bills) go out of business.

The business side of publishing is one giant vat of sadness. But those on the front lines — the enthusiastic booksellers like Rebecca on the floor, the consumers like Loretta in the independent bookstores, the authors continuing to accept peanuts to work for a year, and the publishers putting everything they've got into creating beautiful works of art when most people just want a digital copy instead — those are the people keeping it alive. Here's hoping we can continue to do so. :)

Loretta said...

Rebecca and Nikki--thanks for your incredibly well thought out reply.

I probably should have noted that I'm coming from a relative position of privilege with respect to independent booksellers. I live in Boston, MA, which has an embarrassment of riches as far as independent booksellers are concerned. So much so, in fact, that there's a "Best Independent Bookstore" on Boston's Yelp page that runs 3 pages and 26 entries long (though somehow 3 B&N locations ended up on there, that means there's still 23 independent stores in the area).

My view on Barnes & Noble is also admittedly polluted by the fact that I grew up in New York City and was a teen in the '90s, at a time when B&N had something like...10? 12? locations in Manhattan alone. Every time they opened a new location, I felt like another independent bookseller fell (immortalized in a film I'm otherwise not fond of, You've Got Mail). Now a number of those B&N locations have closed, and surprisingly enough new independent bookstores, opened in the early 2000s, are appearing and in fact thriving. So it's hard not to look at B&N as the enemy and to enjoy living in one of the few places where it is replaced by independent booksellers rather than Amazon (at least to an extent).

But no, you are both correct that if that is the only option, any B&M store is a better option than Amazon. I guess that I'm just at the point where I'm tired enough of both Amazon and large chains that, to save money, I'd rather use the library and only purchase the most wanted of books at full price, rather than get 2 or 3 at a discount from one of the behemoths.

On a serendipitous note, check out this Opinion from today's New York Times on what France is doing right with respect to booksellers:

Marebabe said...

Long before Loretta mentioned the movie, "You've Got Mail", I was remembering it fondly and planning to screen it very soon, maybe even later today. One of the best scenes is after The Shop Around the Corner has closed, and Kathleen wanders in to the Fox Books and sits forlornly in the children's section. Her little speech about the "Shoe" books is one of the things I love best about the movie. It's about the relationship - the LOVE - that readers have with their favorite stories.

Marebabe said...

Hey, Loretta, thanks for sharing the link to the New York Times article. I just finished reading it and liked it so much, I shared it on Facebook. It might just open up a discussion over there.

Rebecca T. said...

Wow - I am loving this conversation SO MUCH. Nikki, I particularly like seeing things from the publisher perspective. I've done quite a bit of independent research and so have a small idea of the challenges publishers face, but I am always interested to hear how things work on that back end.

When I did work at the bookstore (yeah! I'm out of retail and in a library now!) I was always trying to educate the customers and other booksellers on how the publishing industry works and why books cost what they do. No, it's really not THAT expensive and the more people go to Amazon, the harder it becomes for publishers and authors to actually survive.
I had conversations with co-workers and customers who would basically say, I should become an author because then I can just sit around writing all day and not have to work an outside job. They would be completely shocked when I told them that most authors work full time jobs or have secondary careers in order to support their need or love of writing.

Dusk said...

Fascinating discussion on the publishing business everyone. I have had to resort to putting book on the floor in front of my shelf as it is too full.

I myself get most of my books from my local Chapters here in the 905 area. It is closest to me and other than that I have one used bookstore near me. The staff recognize me as well as my mother on sight we are there so much.

The Chapters recently moved it's magazine aisles closer to the Starbucks and placed the Kobo section where the magazine stands used to be. This is cramped for both myself and my mother when we want to look at magazines. Kobo is better for saving space but like Nikki I can almost get high from the smell of a new book or graphic novel.

On top of the price my mother also likes to order crafting and cookbooks from Amazon as she says they have more selection then the one Chapters.

I sometimes piggyback on her orders if the Chapters does not have a book I want. In the past ordering from Chapters has taken 2 or 3 weeks for a book to arrive compared to half the time on Amazon.

Personally I use Chapters for most of my fiction and non-fiction needs as well as Marvel stuff and paperbacks of the Buffy comics. (Nikki and anyone else from the 2011 Rewatch: Buffy's S10 book is by the team from Angel & Faith in S9 and it's as strong as the early Joss comics and the Scooby bond is back up to the closeness it had before Tara died under Christos Gage and lovely art from Rebekah Isaacs. Nick Brendon is co-writing part of it and the wit is almost as sharp as stuff personally from Joss and Jane Espenson. Angel & Faith also continued and Victor Gischler has a good grasp of the voices and Will Conrad has the most realistic art these comics have ever seen. Preview pages for Buffy #5 just went up on Comic Book Resources, check them out, both books are fun again!)

Some claim the Internet Age has made books irrelevant to most people, creating the store closures. I strongly disagree, just look at who swift and strong the response was to LaVar Burton's Reading Rainbow Kickstarter. The other comments here have cleared up the state of the business for me, thank you everybody!

yourblindspot said...

I worked for Oxford Books in Atlanta for many years, and after they declared bankruptcy, I worked for a local Borders for many more. Oxford boasted a truly remarkable staff, and Borders was no different (though I am sad to say it wasn't the typical independent's death but rather poor business practices that drove Oxford under in the end). I was constantly amazed by how many bookstore employees I met who held unused master's degrees and PhDs, yet their passion for books kept them in these long-suffering minimum wage positions, undervalued by the management but prized by the customers. I've never worked with a more talented, fascinating and engaging group of people than the time I spent employed by bookstores. The idea that it could all pass into memory is unconscionable to me.

I am fortunate to have a terrific local bookstore - Avid Bookshop in Athens - that I can support with my own addiction, though I do buy online through Powell's sometimes (as they get the most DELICIOUS signed editions). In the long run, I'm counting on the same passion that I used to see in both my fellow employees and so many of our best customers to keep the fires lit.

Fred said...

Nikki, why just bookstores? I support a local record store, because it has a fantastic jazz collection and LPs (you know, vinyl). The bookstores I mostly support are used. Used stores often don't have an entire listing of an author, but that is what is for. I found a collected (Vol. 1) of Noel Cowards plays. Going to I can get the remaining volumes with no fuss.

As for the closing up of bookstores, some will close but not all. Record stores have reinvented themselves, and like a lot of people I hate downloaded tunes as the quality sucks. What has to happen is store owners have to know their clientele personally, make the effort to adjust the store to their local scene. I mean, I went into a book binders (talk about a job that should have been overtaken by machines a long time ago) and spent a great hour with the owner. I nearly picked up a copy of Robinson Crusoe for $3,700, still needing a new cover and removal of foxing on some pages. What I got out of our conversation is the owner is doing great.

I not one to badmouth Amazon, as I have purchased so much from them, and I love reading the reviews. Price points are important in some cases, but also selection. Where I live on the West Coast, independent bookstores thrive, but its because they are like caves full of hidden treasures. You don't go to them hoping to find something on your list, but hoping to find books not on your list, titles you never heard of by obscure authors you never heard of.

Nikki: I take your point that authors, publishers and owners pour so much of themselves into their work trying to create a beautiful work of art. But it is sad to say we live with a Walmart mentality of how cheapo can I get this or that, and I blame a lot of that on the mentality which began with downloading music for free. Why pay an author for work that occupied them for years, when its readily available as some file on the internet. Maybe this is why Stephen King took some of his novels directly to ebook formats. At the same time it is overwhelming to consider all the books published each year that are pulped because they found no reading market--how much does that cost publishers. By the by, if I had had the money, I would have bought the Crusoe book in its leather binding--now that would be something to hold onto for life and than pass on to later generations.

Rebecca T. said...

I really try not to link to things in comments because it can get messy and you never know if you can trust them, but I read a blog post the other day that was perfectly attuned to this discussion we've been having here and after Fred's comment about WalMartian mentality (okay so he didn't say it quite that way :) I felt compelled to share it. Also, for full disclosure, the author happens to be my sister.

Disposable Culture

Rebecca T. said...

Curses! It didn't link. *sigh* Here it is to copy and paste.

Fred said...

Rebecca T. "WalMartian mentality" love that phrase-- it's like we are aliens to our own world and all the things in it. So much for Thoreau and treasuring the material objects in our lives. It's like the objects are alien, strange an uncanny, and all we can put on them is a dollar sign.

Speaking of books, my wife and I are redoing our will, and one task is allocating all the accumulated material of a life together to someone else. Who? That is the question. Will they treasure it as much as we did, or will it end up in a garage sale? So this made me think of everyone here, with all their books, probably thousands of books between us all. What will happen to them. I can't imagine my life without my library. But what will happen to my library without me?

Which brings up the Alexandrian library, and so many others that have gone into the dust. Books have a life beyond just being read a few times (modern books sadly don't, as their bindings are so poor). Do all the books on a Kindle vanish if it breaks? Throughout history a theme has been the endurance of books (and how hard it is to get rid of them--Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose plays on this idea with Aristotle's "Comedy"). What are we trying to preserve when we frequent a local bookstore? Someone's job? The life of books? For myself the best expression of books is in H.G. Well's novel, Kipps, where the hero ends up wiser and running a bookstore, because he can spend his time reading.

Marebabe said...

Rebecca, I just read Naomi's piece on disposable culture, and I'll admit to being STUNNED at the thought of reading a book once and then THROWING IT AWAY! In my life, there have been a few books that I didn't think were all that great (romance novels spring to mind), so they got put into the next garage sale. But chucking them into the trash never once occurred to me.

Rebecca T. said...

@Marebabe - I actually had a woman who was shopping at the bookstore tell me that she threw her books away when she was done reading them. She then said, "Maybe I should give them to a library or something. I buy them in hardcover, but I'm never going to read them again, so I usually just throw them away. It's too much of a hassle to do anything with them."

I just gaped at her totally stunned and at a complete loss for words. I was this close to asking for her address so I could just come pick them up once a month or something. o_0

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Books and comics and DVDs and action figures. And cons (but those are my vacations.)

Good for you, Nik.

sinoda said...

I worked for Cargo Records in Montreal in 1995-late96. It sank in early 1998.
Imported independent labels from everywhere, sold to independent music stores across Canada

It was owned by music lovers, who sold it to two middle aged white business guys who promptly started destroying it with their business practices.
Before I got there, the staff were all hired friends - musicians, writers, artists, filmmakers, etc. that learned the job once hired. Tattoos and piercings everywhere. Gay people were out. Dogs were brought to work. Everyone was great at what they did. Everyone socialized - I went to only one Christmas party and it was fabulous.
I was hired from the outside to do their customs brokerage (turns out I DID already know some of the employees from partying).
The inventory would be from only one of something (Norwegian death metal maybe) to maybe a hundred of the biggest LA punk band newest release. Zaz, with the skull tattoos up and down his arm, knew every CD in that warehouse, where it was, what it was, where it was from, and which independent music store it was being shipped to. Zaz was fired and a generic white boy with a big parka (for stealing) was hired in his place. Just one example.

They were in the midst of massive fraud on their imports. I kept asking why they were doing it, and warning them that Customs would catch them. They weren't even saving that much money.
It was sad when the ship went down. I met my current best friend there.

sinoda said...

p.s. There were three noticeable subgroups of employees at Cargo. Those who had previously worked at bookstores, people from Newfoundland, and people from London Ontario.

sinoda said...

p.p.s. My cousin is a librarian at a high school and has a budget to buy books every year. I go with her and we buy about a thousand dollars worth per shopping trip, get great treatment and a trolley, and I help mould/mold young minds!!!! Never Chapters. Paragraphe. Sometimes the MMFA bookstore. A few years ago Charest gave a huge budget to libraries (for political points I am sure) and she had to spend 10 times the normal amount in one year - it was AMAZING.