Walton & Noble

Today I ventured into a usually avoided area.

Armed with a gift certificate I walked through the front doors. I instantly heard random horrible coffee-shop music faintly piped in above the chaos of a hundred people’s voices. Every ten minutes someone would trip the security gate and a just as horrible loud beeping sound would emanate from the music section.

The store itself was pure chaos: items were being rearranged (for the second time in the past year, mind you) and nothing could be found. I asked for a list of four items and only one could be located, though I eventually found another one of them on the shelf (right were it was supposed to be.) I waited in line for information and nearly screamed as the item I wanted was on hold – all three copies by the same person.

Where was this hellhole? Best Buy? Wal-Mart?

No. Barnes and Noble.

What happened to this place?

I can remember when Barnes and Noble was a quaint bookstore – that’s right.. books! Now it’s a multi media affair, selling everything – except, of course, the actual book that I want to buy. It’s loud, it’s crowded, and it’s constantly changing. The sports section has been moved three times in the past two years – including twice the past two times I’ve been there. I can never find what I want, and when I do, I nearly always have to put the book back because it’s been smashed against its fellow books until it looks like a well read copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

I used to love going to Barnes and Noble – before my “fight big box commerce” ideals took effect – and I only go now when I receive a gift certificate. I love books, but there are times that I just can’t handle Barnes and Noble.

Why are the magazines always out of date? Why are the books always changing? How can I bring a list of four recently released books into the store and have only one in stock (that is, if you don’t count the one that’s in stock but the clerk didn’t notice)? Additionally, how can I think of three more books that I’d like (two of which are recently in the news) and find that those three are either on hold for someone else or not in stock?

How can a place call itself a bookstore when they don’t seem to have any good books?

Listen — I enjoyed looking at books today, but I just couldn’t understand the logic behind having an ultra-busy, non-relaxing, noisy, understocked bookstore. At least a small store would have an excuse for not having my books in — they wouldn’t have 20,000 square feet of room to put it.

Regardless, I found something to buy there (Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Lorrie Moore’s Like Life, and a new Moleskin notebook to replace my old one) but I left with my nerves rattled. I felt like I had just left a warzone.

This town needs an independent bookstore so bad.

This was lovingly handwritten on October 16th, 2005