Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Entering the SciFi Zone

The Science Fiction Genre has been a hot topic on the interwebs these last few days. To catch you up:

First we have io9s Why Science Fiction Still Hates Itself--a look at science fiction shows on tv and their attempts to distance themselves from their genre.

Next we have a the SF Signal's response in Fear and Loathing in Science Fiction.

SF Signal follows up with a round up of links and an overview on the Borders' decision not to stock as many Scifi authors and titles in Do You Care if Borders Doesn't Stock All Science Fiction Books?.

Here is my take on the Borders decision: SciFi probably isn't the only section affected. Their new concept stores are based on the idea of fewer titles to allow for more face outs. More face outs means a better chance at that title catching a browser's eye, but it also means there is not as much shelf space for other titles and authors, especially stock that may run one or two books per store.

This doesn't stop people from special ordering a book for in store pick up. I've read that booksellers are saying they can't order the books in, but personally, I read that as booksellers can't order books in to put on the shelves. If you want a Tobias Buckell title, they can special order it for you in the store or you can set it up via their website. If they show a high number of special orders then they might change their mind about a particular title. I could be wrong--I have been before and will be again--and these titles might not show up even on the website, but it is worth a try.

And is there a moratorium against ordering SciFi on all the stores? That depends on the management. If you've got a bookseller who thinks they can really hand-sell a title, it’s up to the manager whether or not they order in the book be it from the warehouse or from Partners West, etc. While big box stores don't specialize to the level of the independents you do have to know your customer base. We were crazy about ordering specifically for our clientele at my old store, and we had the sales numbers to back it up.

Borders is making a business decision, but if a particular store can prove the stock is necessary to not miss out on the business (e.g. you are the Borders in Gregory Frost's home town), then an argument could be made to stock a title or author on a case by case basis. Lord Tophet, for example, is available on the Borders website.

This is not a defense of the Borders decision, so much as a perspective. Do I agree with the decision? Not in the way it has been phrased, a bookstore is there to sell books, and the best bookstores know their customers. As a company Borders has a tendency to forget that by simplifying everything down to price per item, upselling at the register, and other numbers that forget about the very human aspect of bookselling. The best booksellers are people who love books and know how to talk books to other people. The best booksellers have titles that they would walk across hot coals to hand-sell--to convert the non-reader to whatever the bookseller loves.


Tobias Buckell said...

YOu are correct that Borders isn't stopping special orders, however due to training/management slip ups, readers of mine reported to me that they were told so (though that is *not* policy, it's indicative to me of how far off Borders has fallen in training/management/quality).

My original post, is at:

Most people have passed on the message that I'm against Borders, calling for a boycott, and am angry, I would encourage people to please read my neutral, details-oriented post on the details I'd gathered about Borders skipping my books. All I was trying to do was explain to my concerned fans why my latest *hardcover* wasn't to be found at Borders, but my paperbacks were.

Bookseller Chick said...

Tobias, I didn't read your post as particularly anti-borders. I used your name (to which I've added your link, I didn't include it originally as it is in the SF Signal piece) as an example since you've commented on the policy.

It's unfortunate that the closer you get to the holidays the more slips ups will happen due to the increase of part time holiday help who receive little training before being thrown out on the floor. Most of those employees will work only a few hours a week, and their knowledge, or lack there of, is a reflection on their trainer. It falls then to the customer to know what they can, and cannnot do, which is not how retail operates.

Tobias Buckell said...

Thanks for the link add :-)

I hope Borders can pull through, as though I'm annoyed with some of what they're doing, authors would still lose a look of bookshelf space!

Bookseller Chick said...

No prob, thanks for stopping by.

I think that the Borders problems we're seeing today are the result of a lot of decisions made under Greg Josefowicz's reign as CEO. A lot of policies during that time focused on treating books like one would items at a grocery store, and while point of sell and average price per purchase are important things to think about, it ignores the heart and power that engaged booksellers bring to the buying public. This doesn't stop managers out there from hiring excellent booksellers and allowing to build their pet sections, but it does bind those employees who are hired by management that thinks in the same supermarket terms.

Tobias Buckell said...


Anonymous said...

Hand selling...I wish I saw that in our major Philadelphia bookstores. All I see is scrambling, however.