Wise Words: ‘Not all people who read books are book people’

I’m currently loving this post by Sarah Rettger over at Book Riot about selling books to non-book people, and why we as book people tend to misunderstand them.

Sarah is talking about telling a customer that they don’t have the book they came in for. People either fall into one of two camps: one shrugs their shoulders, maybe orders the absent book and goes about their shopping, picking up a few books on their TBR list. You know, book people.

The other ones?

The customer isn’t interested in alternatives. This conversation is usually no big deal, but sometimes it involves a combination of sighing, eye-rolling, snapping at the person least able to make the book suddenly appear in the store, and leaving in a huff. (NB: Sometimes they say they’ll buy it elsewhere, or get the ebook, which is perfectly cool. I only complain when it’s accompanied by the sighing and flouncing. We all appreciate the social niceties, you know?)

First, can I say YES WHAT IS IT WITH ALL THE SIGHING AND FLOUNCING? I’m sorry we sold out of the one copy of Cuckoo’s Calling we had in stock. It’s not like us booksellers have an ‘in’ with JK Rowling, knew she ghost-wrote a random book and are now enjoying screwing everyone over. OK?!

But then Sarah makes a good point. Customer B is likely part of either the 10 percent of Americans who only bought one or two books last year, or the 22 percent that didn’t buy any. Buying books really isn’t their thing. In fact:

Many potential readers don’t want a book. They want that book. It might well be the only one they buy in 2013. And if they can’t have it, there are plenty of other things to occupy their time.

Good point, Sarah. Good point. I wish things were different, but hey. I can only save the world one book at a time right?

In other somewhat related news, can someone write a Book Riot post about how annoying it is when customers blame poor little booksellers for publishers’ price of books?

  • “Is that the real price of the book? That’s too expensive! How can you sell it at that price.”
  • “Books…cost…money…um…” Walk away slowly.
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