Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Question Time: Book Search

It’s so hot that I’m a bookseller puddle with my little brain proteins denaturing at a rapid rate. Hopefully this evening I’ll be cool enough to salvage what is left of my mind, but I could use a little help. Please answer the following questions and feel free to comment about any aspect or order.

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

a.) go right to the section

b.) browse the front of the store to see if it is on display and then go to the section

c.) browse front of store, check endcaps and then go to section

d.) ask a bookseller.


If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

a.) look at the front of store and at other displays

b.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)

c.) look to see if the store has a handy computer you can look this stuff up at

d.) ask a bookseller.

(If you do all these things before you ask a bookseller then please indicate and in what order you do so.)

I only talk to a bookseller if:

a.) I can’t find my book

b.) something is improperly shelved and I want to bring it to their attention

c.) my book should be on the front table, damn it!

d.) I want information on an upcoming release or to place a hold on an upcoming release

e.) find out when the seventh Harry Potter is coming out because c’mon, I know that you guys know this

f.) find out why the story doesn’t carry so-in-so’s book or why it is not available in the format that I prefer

g.) ask for recommendations for a present or for myself

h.) directions.

31 comments:

lurker said...

OK, I'll play this time:

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

a.) go right to the section

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

d.) ask a bookseller.

(If you do all these things before you ask a bookseller then please indicate and in what order you do so.)

I only talk to a bookseller if:

a.) I can’t find my book
i.) to order an upcoming release or a book not in stock

I rarely check out the displays, when I shop, I'm usually looking for something in particular. If it isn't there, then I brouse, but generally in the section that I usually buy from. (OK, I do glance at the displays as I pass them, and sometimes wander the discount racks at B&N).

Michelle said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

b.) browse the front of the store to see if it is on display and then go to the section

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

b.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)

and then d.) ask a bookseller.

I only talk to a bookseller if:

a.) I can’t find my book

b.) something is improperly shelved and I want to bring it to their attention

d.) I want information on an upcoming release or to place a hold on an upcoming release

h.) directions.

For example I was looking for the new Janye Castle book a few weeks ago.
I checked out the new book section and then the romace and then looked under here other name. At this point I asked a book seller. She looked it up on the computer and advently found it.

Agent Kristin said...

Bookseller Chick,

I've always wondered about this and maybe you can finally answer it for me. Why don't bookstores have a computer kiosk that I, as a browser, can just step up to, put in the title I'm looking for, and then go find it on the shelves?

I hate going to the very general fiction section (or wherever), thinking to find the book there, only to discover that it's on the new fiction bookshelf (and no copies are on the regular shelves). Why not placed in both?

Some titles I think I have a clue as to where it would be shelved and then, upon asking, discover I'm completely wrong.

I don't mind seeking out the bookseller but sometimes it really does entail seeking them out. Or they have a line of people waiting to ask my exact same questions.

I realize that bookstores aren't the same as pump-it-yourself gas stations but I can do this at the library (where I always find the book quite easily).

Why not in the store?

Hum... it just occured to me that maybe book browsers would break the computer or something along those lines.

Jen said...

If I'm looking for something specific, I almost always head straight for the section. I browse the front of the store and endcaps as I head to the section but I'm just looking to see what's out, not looking for the title I want.

I will check other sections if I think of it. (Trying to find Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series comes to mind - I think I looked in Romance but it was in general fiction, or possibly vice versa...)

About the only time that I ask the bookseller is if I know that it's a new release and I can't find it.

The sad thing about this is I'm a librarian. I know that the quickest and easiest way to find a book if it's not where I initially look is to ask, but it's always a last resort for me. (For the record, I've always been that way when using the library too.)

Nonny said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

a.) go right to the section


If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

c.) look to see if the store has a handy computer you can look this stuff up at

a.) look at the front of store and at other displays

b.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)

d.) ask a bookseller.


I only talk to a bookseller if:

a.) I can’t find my book

Jana J. Hanson said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

a.) go right to the section




If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:


c.) look to see if the store has a handy computer you can look this stuff up at




I only talk to a bookseller if:

a.) I can’t find my book


I do say 'Thank you' and 'Hello' to all bookstore employees, if that makes any difference.

RandomRanter said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
RandomRanter said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:
b.) browse the front of the store to see if it is on display and then go to the section

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

First: a.) look at the front of store and at other displays

Then, if it's obvious I might try b.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)

After that - c.) look to see if the store has a handy computer you can look this stuff up at

And then - d.) ask a bookseller.

I only talk to a bookseller if:

a.) I can’t find my book

h.) directions.

It varies a little based on which store I'm in. One store near me the staff have been great finding books for me (I am one of those people that shows up on the Tuesday a book is released and it hasn't always made it out on the floor yet.) Another one, they always ask me if I looked on the shelf. (And I do get that they want to know what I tried - it is the attitude that gets me.) Obviously I shop much more at the first type of store.

mapletree7 said...

a, d, a.

Trish said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:
b.) browse the front of the store to see if it is on display and then go to the section.

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

1.) look at the front of store and at other displays
2.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)
3.) look to see if the store has a handy computer you can look this stuff up at (in that order exactly)

I only talk to a bookseller if:
a.) I can’t find my book

Regards,
Trish

Diane P said...

Just today I did the following:
c.) browse front of store, check endcaps and then go to section
c.) look to see if the store has a handy computer you can look this stuff up at
) Ask bookseller if I can’t find my book

I look at recommendations that are put on the bookshelves- If you like.... try .... or ....recommends.

I haven't found most bookstores very helpful for recommendations with the exceptions of the Beaverton Borders and Murder by the Book.
Often times I find other shoppers will recommend books.

ilona said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

a)

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

d.) ask a bookseller. Note: I'm a great believer in letting people do things which are in their job description. I hired a realtor to find a house, an agent to market my book to editors, and I will ask a bookseller because you guys are likely to know where the book is. It saves me time :)

I only talk to a bookseller if:
a, d, f, and i) I see a lost child and she is crying

Christine Fletcher said...

Usually when I go into a bookstore I'm browsing for something that catches my eye. But when I do go in for a specific title, then a) I go right to the section. If I can't find it, I then do a), b), and c), in that order. I'm shy--I'm in the bookstore to escape real life, after all!--so I only talk to a bookseller if I can't find my book.

C2 said...

I'll play too!

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:
c.) browse front of store, check endcaps and then go to section

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:
b.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)

I only talk to a bookseller if:
a.) I can’t find my book - and even then it depends on who is working...if it is the manager or asst. manager, I'll ask...otherwise, nope.
i.) if there is something broken, leaning, leaking, etc. It happens...the mall is remodeling at the moment.

:o)

katherine said...

a, d, and I find all sorts of reasons to talk to the bookseller, usually a, d, or g.

jellybean said...

I look in the section, then ask someone. Honestly, I never look at the displays in front, unless I'm in my local indie store. The big chains always seem to be pushing The Da Vinci Code.

Beth said...

Can I just skip the multiple choice bit and tell you what I do? Because I check the front of the store if it's a new release or best seller. If it's not, I go to the section. Not there, and I find a computer. After that, I might - MIGHT - go to the bookseller and ask. But usually I've looked it up on their site before I ever got in the car to see if they have it in stock and where they shelve it.

PJ said...

Following Beth's lead.... ^_^

I usually don't spend a lot of time hanging around the front displays - because 98% of the time the books I am looking for will not be there. [shrugs] And I'm guessing - when my book is eventually published - it won't be there either. Such is the life of a SF/F author. Unless you're Rowling or Tolkien or Norton. ANYway: I usually head right for the section I'm pretty sure it's in. If it isn't there - AND there's one of those computers available - I try that. If the computer insists the title is where I'm not finding it, I will ask an employee to double check and see if there are any copies. Sometimes the copies are being shelved somewhere else until space opens up -DOH!-

I will bring "dropsies" - books people just leave in another section because they are too lazy to take them back where they belong or too rude to hand them over when checking out for reshelving - or mis-shelved books to an employee. I will also as an employee for directions to a section if I'm unfamiliar with the store - or it's a section I've never sought out before.

I know a couple of the employees at our local Big Chain store are amused at my bring the "dropsies" to them - but hey, if it were my book, I'd want someone to make sure it was where it belonged so someone could find it and buy it!

:-) Hope that helps.

~PJ~

E is for Editrix said...

I'm trying to remember the last time I went with a specific title in mind, but...

1.When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:
b.) browse the front of the store to see if it is on display and then go to the section


2. If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:
b.) look in other sections the book might be displayed (for example you think of a title as general fiction but they might have it shelved in mystery)
d.) ask a bookseller.

3. I only talk to a bookseller if:
a.) I can’t find my book
d.) I want information on an upcoming release or to place a hold on an upcoming release
f.) find out why the story doesn’t carry so-in-so’s book or why it is not available in the format that I prefer


I'll be the first to admit that I find booksellers intimidating. But then again, I'm not much for asking for help anywhere. And I'm also one of those annoying people who puts the books they work on out on the tables, and turns out their covers on the shelves. I'm a bookseller's nightmare. So I don't like to call attention to myself...

Kendall said...

Agent Kristin: Usually (always?) I find self-service computer kiosks at Border's. The searches aren't great (e.g., search for smith in the title & you get books written by Smith), but when I have sufficient info, I can find out if the book's in stock. That doesn't mean I'll find it, though. ;-)

BSC: Unless I'm in a rush, I always look at store displays. Endcaps seem smaller & less useful to me these days, so I usually don't notice them. But I'm just curious; I'm not really looking for the book in the displays. So I won't count that.

- I go to the section

- If not found, I look more closely at store front

- Rarely, I look at another section; I read mostly F/SF & it's rarely shelved elsewhere, but some crossver books I like are marketed/shelved elsewhere (e.g., Stephen Woodworth's great Violet series is under mystery/thriller); if only books like this were cross-marketed in the store, not just by the publisher (when they even bother)

- I check the computer (Border's); if it's not listed as in-stock then I stop here

- If the computer says it's in-stock, or if I'm at a store without a self-service computer/kiosk (i.e. not Border's), then the last resort -- I ask.

Asking is a last resort because (a) I'm shy, (b) I hate just overlooking it in the right place, (c) more and more often, it's psycho-shelved and I just waste everyone's time, and (d) it's frustrating when their computer says "it's here" and even the clerk can't find it. Oh, and (e) if it didn't just come out, I suspect the bookstore of poor ordering/stocking and figure I'll get it on Amazon.com. ;-/

h.) directions.

Hehehe...only if I'm an author and I've just done a signing! (I'm kidding!!!)

Anonymous said...

If I want a specific title and I know where it is, I go straight to it and pick it up.

If I don't know where it is, I try to find it in the appropriate section and hope books are alphabetized on author last name.

If they're not sorted as I expected or if I don't know the author's name, I take it to the bookseller.

Marianne McA said...

When you are looking for a certain title in the store do you:

a or c
Depends how excited I am. If it's something I really, really want to read right now, I'd go straight to the book - otherwise I'd browse on the way.

If you don’t find the book in the section do you then:

Probably b then d. Check, then ask. But reasonably often I'd assume if I can't see it, it's not there and therefore I'd e) cross the road to see if the other bookshop has it.


I only talk to a bookseller if:

Just to pass the time of day.

lady t said...

I'm one of those self searcher types-If I have a certain book in mind,I'll go right to the section. I'll also check other places where it might be,including the front displays and endcaps if it's a new book.

I rarely check with the bookseller,unless I am totally desparate to have that title at all costs. Those computer kiosks at Borders aren't too bad but the Borders in my area usually has only one available(the others are either broken or nonaccessible)

Shanna Swendson said...

When looking for a specific title I:
b) look at the displays in front -- if I know it's a new release
or a) go straight to the section -- if it's a slightly older book I'm pretty sure won't be displayed up front

If I don't find it I:
b) look in other sections

I only talk to a bookseller if:
Here I have a fill-in-the-blank answer: I talk to a bookseller if one approaches me and I feel totally lost and see no way of escaping from the bookseller. I'm very bad about hating to ask for help anywhere, and have been known to tell store employees (at all kinds of stores) that I don't need help even when I can't find what I'm looking for. If I don't find a book I'm looking for and if no bookseller physically tackles me and demands to be allowed to help me find something, I'll sneak out of the store, go home and order the book online. Generally, if I can't find a book in a store, either it's still in boxes in the back or the store doesn't have it anywhere, so asking for help would only do me any good if it is in boxes and someone is willing to go open the box to get it for me (usually I get a shrug and "the computer shows we have it, but it's not on the shelf"). I might as well skip the hassle and order it to be delivered to my house.

Yes, I'm the customer from hell who refuses to be helped, but I also find myself doing a ton of handselling to other patrons while I'm in a store, so I figure it evens out.

Eileen said...

I am physically incapable of walking in a straight line at a bookstore. It could be on fire and I would still find myself distracted and stop to take a look at something. When I go- I wander through the front and endcapes. If I can't locate then I ask the bookseller.

Secondly I ask the bookseller for recommendations at my independent. She's always got a great idea. At a chain I stick help with locating a book or directions (to the nearest independent of course : )

Samantha said...

If I am looking for a recent release then I (b) browse the front of the store to see if it's on display, but if it's not recent release then (a) go right to the section.

If I don't find the book in the section then I (c) look to see iff the store has a handy computer where I can look this stuff up at and if no computer then I'll generally look through other sections in case they've chosen to put it in a section other than where I think it might be shelved.

I generally will never ever ask a bookseller about a book. That is because my experiences have been bad. I typically get the rude disinterested person who doesn't want to help me or who thinks the genre I'm looking for is crap. Example, I knew there was a sequel out to a book I had enjoyed (fantasy/vampire) but could not remember the title or the author. But I knew the title of the first book. Went to customer service, spelled it for them, the clerk looked it up, said she couldn't find anything that matched and that I must be wrong and sent me on my way. A little more searching by me in the section and I found the book. So now I don't bother with booksellers. If they don't have the computers for me to use myself and I can't find it on my own I just wait and get it another time.

Michelle said...

Okay, I'll just state my experiences in general because my brain is swimming with all the choices. :)

When I enter a book store, first thing I do is browse the bestselling paperbacks. I'll look at the displays and then head to the romance section.

I'll look for my favorite authors, but I almost never ask a bookseller for help (they're rarely around). The only time I spoke with a very helpful bookseller was in the children's section when I was looking for books for my son.

If I want to order a book, I get it through Amazon.

That said, if a bookseller were to approach me and offer recommendations on historical romance, I'm all for it. But they never do. :(

Anonymous said...

I do all of the above depending on the situation. If I know a book is a new release or bestseller, then I check out the front tables first, then the appropriate section. If I don't have a specific title in mind, I'll check out the new releases or recommendation tables or shelves. If I can't find something specific, I'll check the online catalog, if there is one, or ask a bookseller. Finally, if I absolutely can't find the book, or it's not listed in the catalog, or I need a recommendation for a gift, I'll ask the bookseller.

Maureen McGowan said...

If I'm looking for something specific I go to the section/shelves.

If I don't find it I may try the computer before I ask a bookseller... unless a bookseller is right there.

When I don't have a particular book in mind... I usually look mostly at the front tables and special displays. I rarely talk to booksellers.

I know, I should be very ashamed.

BuffySquirrel said...

a) I'll go straight to the shelf where the book ought to be. If I was in Methvens (before it closed down) I'd just go straight to their handy computer search system and key in the title and find out if they had the book in stock. Presuming I hadn't already done so via the internet before even leaving the house.

None of the other bookshops where I live have a computer search system available to the public, although Waterstones has one the booksellers can use. They did have a public one, but it mysteriously disappeared. Possibly because it didn't work.

b) If the book isn't where I think it ought to be, I'll wander around looking at other places it might be. I never look at the front displays. I do look at the tables in the appropriate sections, though. (And in Waterstones, I'll look under the tables, too, now I've discovered they often stash books there that aren't on any of the shelves.)

h) At Methvens, if I'd found the book in their computer but couldn't find it on the shelf, I would ask a bookseller if they could find it for me. Their system was so efficient that I generally had confidence that the book would be around somewhere. Although there was that one time when the bookseller and I looked EVERYWHERE, and never did find it. Elsewise, if I can't find the book on the shelf, or on the table, or stuffed under the table, and I don't really want the book that badly anyway, I usually wander off and try somewhere else. Rather than actually talk to someone. Bookseller or otherwise.

At Methvens, you could order the book through their computer system and it would be delivered to the shop in days and they'd send you a friendly email saying it had arrived and you could wander in next time you were in town and pick up your book and pay for it and can you tell I really miss that shop?

At Waterstones, they take down your order details at the cash desk in front of all the other customers and you feel like you want to die. I haven't even tried ordering a book at Ottakars.

Okay, I'll admit my ignorance. What IS an endcap?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well, this is interesting. ...

If I'm buying a new book, I go to the appropriate section first. I'm a find-it-myself kind of person. If I can't find it, I'll ask.

If I'm in a used bookstore, I wander the store first, even if I have something specific in mind. I want to see how they run their store. I want to see what they have I might want to buy for my own store. (You'd be surprised how uninformed we antiquarian booksellers are. You can't know it all. So, there's occasionally something worth buying.) After I've looked through the store, I'll ask about a specific item.

Some booksellers don't have a welcoming personality. I love to chat with my customers, assuming they want to talk. If they don't want to talk, I leave them to their browsing. I always greet them when they enter my store. I like people almost as much as I like books. If you make people feel at home, they'll talk. It's all about generating comfort.

A computer database accessible to customers would require a lot of extra effort. We use Homebase, a book-listing program. I don't know of any way to convert it to a secure, search-only format.

If a client wants an out of print book we don't have, I will invite them to my computer and search for them. I usually start with bookfinder, a meta-search site. I may not make a sale in my own store, but I'm making a customer happy and helping other booksellers in the process. The customer will come back.