Well maybe I can manage a little rant...
I would always advocate supporting your local independent bookstore
where the owners and staff are passionate about books and their
special expertise and advice are priceless. They'll offer you works
by less well-known authors and small publishers and they'll always
take the time to recommend or track down a book for you.
If you haven't got access to one of these independent stores to
browse in, then the next best thing would be to visit Amazon online,
where you will be offered the ultimate choice, from huge best-sellers
to self-published books. No personal advice here, but lots of
readers' views - some brutally honest, others evidently fake.
But what I would never recommend is to support the big bookstore
chains. Come on, we've all watched "You've Got Mail". The truth is,
that putting a little bookstore out of business and re-employing
their sales staff, won't actually change the process by which the
stock finds its way to the shelves. Frequenting the big bookstore
chains limits your choice of books to those which are picked by a
handful of buyers country-wide. Often these buyers don't even read
the books but instead make decisions on the basis of "star names" or
promotional incentives offered by the publishers. It leads to fewer
titles and fewer authors on the chelves; and books stocked on the
basis of supposed sales potential rather than quality. But surely
this ingenious strategy must work for them, after all, compared to
other people in the field of sales, they have a lot of things to make
the job of making profit very easy.
What other store can you think of where...
- you sell things and put the profit in the bank, but you don't have
to pay the supplier of your stock until perhaps a year later...
- you can order any amount of stock, and expect your supplier to
produce it, but if you find you don't sell it, you can just hand it
- you don't expect to pay delivery or return charges for any of your
- you expect your suppliers to provide all the advertising material
and undertake all the promotional work?
But guess what? Even given all of the above, it seems that some big
chains still find themselves in trouble and instead of questioning
their own business strategy, they come up with unique ways to make
other people responsible for bailing them out - such as asking
publishers to start to PAY the stores to stock their books! This link
has an amazing exchange of letters between a big bookstore chain, and
a medium-sized publisher in Australia...