Book Sales and Book Loot

by Kim on April 15, 2011 · 28 comments

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In the wake of Borders closing down more than 200 stores, there have been a lot of posts of the piles of books people have have snagged during the sales. As much as I like seeing new book stacks and chiming in with which ones I’m most excited about, actually posting my own book piles seemed to depressing, like kicking a kid while they’re down.

Steph (Steph & Tony Investigate) posted about her Borders books earlier this week, and was one of the few posts I remember reading that acknowledged just how depressing and sad a bookstore closing can be. When I commented about my discomfort celebrating book buying at a store closing, she smartly responded,

@ Kim: I think you should post about your loot! It’s sad that Borders is doing so badly, and that many other bookstores are suffering the same fate, but books are meant to be celebrated… I hope that my book-buying posts inspire others to head out and buy books too!

I like that sentiment a lot — books should be celebrated, and we should share what we love to inspire other people too. In that spirit, here are a few of the books that I’ve recently laid down my hard-earned cash for:

A Room of One’s Own Books

Room is one of my local bookstores (I’ve written about them before). I’ve been making a point to order at least a book a month from them, and this is what I picked up a few weeks ago.

  • The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder — part of my Day Zero Project is to read all of Tracy Kidder’s books, and this is his first one. I’ve never seen this in a mainstream bookstore, so I had Room order me a copy one from the publisher. How awesome is that?
  • Bring on the Books for Everybody by Jim Collins — I was just browsing around, killing time instead of waiting in line, and I saw this book in the Reading/Writing section. I like literature and I like cultural studies (and the book is about the rise of reading as a social activity — hello, this book blog!) so I bought it on impulse.

Borders Closing, Trip 1

I took my first trip to Borders about two weeks after they announced the closings. I was going mostly looking for copies of books I’d read and loved that I didn’t have copies of already, either because they were from the library, borrowed, or I had an ARC. Here’s what I found:

  • Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick — I loved this book when I read it, but didn’t have a copy myself. It was an easy grab.
  • Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — I first read this when I borrowed it from a friend and loved it. I was to read all of Jon Krakauer, so another easy grab.
  • In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White — I’d wanted to read this for awhile which is why I picked it up, but ended up being a bit disappointed.
  • The Big Short by Michael Lewis — This book has been commended as a great look at the financial crisis, which I do want to spend time learning about.
  • The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook – I have always wanted one of those good, general interest cookbooks. You know, the kind that’s got everything from chocolate cake to quiche in it. There were quite a few copies of this one left, but I’m glad I snagged it.

Borders Closing, Trip 2

I took my second trip to Borders 10 days before the store was officially closing. Actually, I think the last day is actually today, which is sad. But, celebrating books! Here’s what I grabbed:

  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman — I’ve read some good reviews of this memoir, so I was excited to find a copy.
  • The Price of Motherhood by Ann Crittenden — This was an impulse grab from the gender studies section.
  • How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson — This was a total impulse grab from the fiction section. The title seemed familiar; anyone have reviews of it?
  • The Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi — I loved Reading Lolita in Tehran, so wanted to read Nafisi’s next book.
  • Poison Penmanship: The Gentle Art of Muckraking by Jessica Mitford and Jane Smiley.
  • The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris — I grabbed this one because I enjoyed Ferris’ first book, Then We Came to the End, and have wanted to read this one. I found it on audio for $10, which, given how much I drive to Minnesota in the summer, seemed like an excellent buy.
  • Blur: How to Know What’s True in an Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel — I enjoyed an earlier Kovach and Rostenstiel book on journalism, The Elements of Journalism, and suspect blur will be a well-balanced and thoughtful look at the struggle for finding accurate information in a new information age. Plus, I want to read more journalism theory, and I’m confident this will be good.
Photo Credit: Flickr via jamielondonboy.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne April 15, 2011 at 7:23 am

I admit that I too felt sheepish about scavenging at a closing Borders, but I got some great books at good deals.

Your haul is impressive too. I agree that all books must be celebrated.

I picked up How to Buy a Love of Reading a few months ago but I haven’t read it yet. I did just read Nothing to Envy and it is fascinating.

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Kim April 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Suzanne: I just felt bad most of the time I was in Borders, seeing the books all in disarray and the shelves starting to be empty. It was just a bummer.

But I am happy about the books, and looking forward to reading them. I feel like I read reviews of How to Buy a Love of Reading, but I cannot remember from who? I hope it’s excellent.

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Steph April 15, 2011 at 8:53 am

Thanks for sharing your loot with us, Kim! It looks like you found some wonderful titles and I liked seeing that some of the books were ones you just picked up on a whim or because they called to you. For me, that is one of the things that is impossible for online stores to do and that physical bookstore reign supreme at. They offer the ultimate browsing experience and allow you to find books you might otherwise never have encountered!

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Kim April 15, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Steph: You’re totally right — it’s just not as satisfying to browse online as it is to pick up and put back books on shelves in the store. That is one thing I miss a lot about frequenting used bookstores.

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bermudaonion (Kathy) April 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I love that you had to go to Borders twice!! It looks like you found lots of great treasures!

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Kim April 15, 2011 at 5:56 pm

bermudaonion: I was only going to go the one time, but then when the savings went down to more than 50 percent I couldn’t resist! I am such a sucker for cheap books.

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Aarti April 15, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I read & reviewed How to Buy a Love of Reading a few years ago, I think. It was a fun read in some ways, but also really frustrating. I don’t like linking to my reviews on other people’s blogs, but I think there were some characters (most characters?) that just really bothered me- very much the “I’m rich so I can do whatever I want” lifestyle.

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Kim April 15, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Aarti: Thanks for the thoughts on the book. I’ll have to go look for your review to see, but the kind of character your describe sounds soooo annoying!

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Colleen April 15, 2011 at 7:21 pm

I also made two trips to Borders and felt conflicted – on one hand, I was excited about the deals and on the other, sad to see the dwindling shelves.

Unnamed is excellent on audio – Ferris reads it himself.

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Colleen: I think we feel the same way about the closing. I drove by the store today now that it’s closed and it made me sad. And knowing that Ferris reads the audio makes me happy!

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Jenny April 15, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I feel even worse — I keep going to Borders to pick over their bones, but then I can’t find anything I want. It’s very disorganized! I’d feel better if at least I could say farewell to Borders with respect; all I feel is great annoyance at what a mess of crappy books it is.

(That came out very curmudgeonly. I mean of course I am sad the bookstore is closing. I hate it when stores close. They make me depressed.)

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Jenny: Yes, I agree. Ours was still in pretty good shape organization-wise, but it was so sad to see the empty shelves all over the place.

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Lisa April 15, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I sometimes feel that same way when I head to the bargain and clearance bins the minute I walk in a bookstore, particularly if that’s all I end up buying. I know that if I were shopping from the regular priced stuff, the story would do better. I like that idea that you are celebrating books. And the store is closing at this point, regardless of whether or not you post about what you bought. Better to buy the books and celebrate the chance to get so many of them than to have the books be destroyed.

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Lisa: I like your last point — celebrate getting to read them rather than the books being destroyed or otherwise ignored. I’ve been trying to buy more new books to make up for my previous addition to the bargain bins, but it’s a transition :)

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Trisha April 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm

It is a strange feeling, picking over the bones of the dead in a way. And yet, I agree that books should be celebrated, and when it comes down to it, it’s not your fault that Borders has closings.

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Trisha: So true — I buy a heck of a lot more books than most people, and I did spend a lot at that Borders in particular. It was right by the grocery store! So hard to resist!

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Jean Lewis April 16, 2011 at 6:16 am

We are losing both Border’s stores in S.W. Florida. It is devastating. I have worked at B&N for over ten years. A customer approached me at work a couple of weeks ago and said,’ You must be happy about your competitor’s closing.” I set him straight immediately. No, none of us are happy about Border’s closings. Any time a book store closes, it’s sad. We need more people to come to the brick and mortar stores to do more than just make lists to order online or load their Kindles with. Most people just don’t understand what is happening. Amazon benefits from all the “real” stores where people can actually come in and SEE the books. It’s too bad all book stores can’t just work together for the better of books.

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Jean Lewis: How sad. In the stories here in Madison about the closing, other bookstore owners said similar things to you — no one is happy about a bookstore closing.

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Citizen Reader April 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I agree with Jenny–we tried to go say goodbye to our Border’s but it was too depressing for words, and I couldn’t even concentrate. And the deals didn’t excite me at all, as at that point Border’s wasn’t making much and the author was probably making less. Call me a big elitist jerk if you want to, but I’d rather pay the full price for one book and hope the author gets a better cut. But then, I work with books and don’t make enough money to buy them either cheaply or new. It’s a conundrum.

And good for you, Kim, for patronizing A Room of One’s Own. I’ve got to get down there this summer. Enjoy the Tracy Kidder book–it’s old but still super-interesting.

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Citizen Reader: It was really a bummer to be there, both times I stopped by. It was just demoralizing. It was nice to get some books for less money, but not especially satisfying.

I’m really excited about the Kidder book. He’s such a fabulous writer.

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Aths April 16, 2011 at 6:49 pm

Recently, I read a post by someone exceedingly unabashedly excited about a Borders closing sale, and I was wondering the same thing. The whole Borders fiasco has just been depressing. I haven’t been able to smile when I read some posts, so it’s nice to see things in a different perspective – let’s just celebrate the books for a change. Thanks for this post!

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Kim April 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm

Aths: I wasn’t going to post about this until Steph’s comment, and I do think she’s right — books should be celebrated, no matter the circumstances.

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Trish April 17, 2011 at 6:22 am

It does make me sad that the Borders are closing but I’m a bit removed from it since my local Borders is one of the few (two?) in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that is actually staying open.

I do, however, love the sentiment that books should be celebrated–glad you shared some of yours with us!

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Kim April 18, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Trish: I’m glad your Borders is staying open — that’s nice! We still have one Borders in Madison, but the one that closed is the one I preferred to go to. I was back over in that part of town over the weekend and saw the closed store, which was sad.

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Care April 22, 2011 at 10:34 am

I stopped in a few times at our closing Borders and one time, just turned around and left. The second time, I bought a bunch of math workbooks for tutoring and was very sad that ALL the Mac how-to books are gone. The third time, I was tempted by all the travel guides to places I want to visit but stopped myself. Instead, I scored the Gail Collins’ The Amazing Journey of American Women 1960-present and a book on mathematical curiosities. Still couldn’t be tempted by 70% off any of the audios. I don’t know why I think the prices are outrageous when I really do enjoy listening and I realize the economic/product/etc. (or do I?!) oh well.

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Kim April 24, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Care: I’ve wanted to read that Collins’ book — I’m always tempted by it at the library! I hope you enjoy it. I don’t usually buy audiobooks, but 50 percent off seemed like a good price — I’m the same way with thinking it’s outrageous even though I like them a lot.

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David Guion April 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

I mostly went to our now-closed Borders because it had the best selection of classical music CDs in town. But over the years it shrank to the vanishing point. When it closed, I didn’t bother to go. My good news is that I just stumbled on a used book store I hadn’t noticed before. Libraries are working hard on adapting to changing times. I hope some in the new book business (brick and mortar variety) are, too, I haven’t seen much sign of it, but then the book store was in a non-discript row of little shops I’d never paid any attention to across the street from somewhere I’ve gone every couple of months for years.

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Kim May 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

David: I think there is an opportunity for small bookstores to fill the gap left by Borders, if they work hard to market themselves and to fill niches for customers. I didn’t spend a lot of time in our Borders music or movies sections, but it seem like they were dwindling.

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