Thank you for the books September 20, 2007 9:32 PM   Subscribe

I just want to thank the MeFites who faithfully answer all the book questions that get asked here, like this one. And very special thanks for those who include an Amazon link. I know not everyone supports them, but I don't usually buy from Amazon; I export my wishlist to a spreadsheet via Librarything, and take it whenever I go used bookshopping. Thus, I've had many, many hours of great reading thanks to AskMeFi. Having good books to read means a lot to me, and I just wanted to thank you all.

Some other recent threads I appreciated included scary books, vacation books, and page-turners. And I've almost never been disappointed by a heartfelt recommendation. You folks are the best.
posted by TochterAusElysium to Etiquette/Policy at 9:32 PM (42 comments total)

Matt gets money from our links to Amazon. I only fail to make them out of laziness.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:51 PM on September 20, 2007


Bah, he's trying to thank us, GET `EM!
posted by blue_beetle at 9:59 PM on September 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


"... Having good books to read means a lot to me, ..."

If you don't buy at least some of your books at retail, thus supporting Demon Publishers and Greedy Authors living on book sales commissions, please pardon me while I remain extremely skeptical of your statement.
posted by paulsc at 10:01 PM on September 20, 2007


Yes, I do buy some new at retail, paulsc, but I read a LOT and can't afford them all new. Half Price Books gets most of my business...hope you understand.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 10:07 PM on September 20, 2007


I knew there had to be a catch! It was all too pleasant to last.
Glad to hear you're finding some good stuff, TochterAusElysium.
posted by Abiezer at 10:11 PM on September 20, 2007


This is as good as place as any to say that this thread is moving from being the best ask.metafilter question ever to being the best page on the goddamn Internet. Now, I just need to marry a rich old lady who's soft in the head who will buy me all the books I wants.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:15 PM on September 20, 2007


Is this something I'd have to be literate to understand?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:50 PM on September 20, 2007


What Bookhouse said.
posted by danb at 11:00 PM on September 20, 2007


Amazon is nice and all, but really, support your local bookstore and buy there or you will not be leafing through books to find what you want, and you won't be getting it today, anymore.
posted by caddis at 1:13 AM on September 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh no! I might drive Barnes and Noble out of business by buying from Amazon!
posted by smackfu at 5:21 AM on September 21, 2007


If you don't buy at least some of your books at retail, thus supporting Demon Publishers and Greedy Authors living on book sales commissions, please pardon me while I remain extremely skeptical of your statement.

Wow, people are assholes around here at the drop of a hat. "If you don't agree with me about the ethics of purchasing habits, you don't really love books!" Yeah, sure. Can you break it down for me by bookstore? If I buy at Barnes & Noble, do I love books less than if I buy at Borders? Obviously if I buy at either, I love books less than if I buy at Paulsc's Favorite Dusty Little Bookshop, but what if I buy at the Dusty Little Bookshop across the street, does that mean I love books only slightly less than you? And I guess people who read books from libraries don't love books at all. Thanks for clarifying all this.
posted by languagehat at 5:31 AM on September 21, 2007 [10 favorites]


Half Price Books gets most of my business...hope you understand.

I live down the street from the Half Price Books flagship store. My lady and I were just discussing how they've got to be the greediest corporation in America, surpassing Wal Mart and, I don't know... KFC. The slimy bastards have the least overhead of any other business I can think of save for certain segments of the black market drug trade. Somewhere right now, one of their employees is getting all hard n' pink as he pays a customer $4.25 for a box of 18 popular and rare books that'll be end up having a retail value of around 100x that. Same goes with their vinyl LP's - these days, if the artist has a current or cult following, into the 'collectors' bin it goes for $20.

The ugly damned thing about it all is that I still shop at the greed hole, though I try to shoplift as much as I possibly can.
posted by item at 6:29 AM on September 21, 2007


Half Price Books gets most of my business...hope you understand.

No! Not when you could be shopping at Third Place Books, my fellow Shorelinian. (But who am I to speak? I get 99% of my books from the library, too. We are savages.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:50 AM on September 21, 2007


Hey you crabapples, if you want another place to try to find at least the old classics without giving any money to anyone except the post office and getting rid of some of your books in the process, try paperbackswap.com. It's the closest thing to socialism on the internet. You can even get hardback books there too.

I would use it but I love books so much I eat them when I am through with them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:09 AM on September 21, 2007 [11 favorites]


Third Place is my second favorite haunt after Half Price, Tcitl! In fact, if I dare admit it now, when I do buy new, it's from Third Place. (Plus, I love Honey Bear's bacon avocado sandwiches.)
posted by TochterAusElysium at 7:20 AM on September 21, 2007


Go for the books, stay for the crazy delicious BBQ.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:27 AM on September 21, 2007


I used to work at Half Price Books. I had to quit because when they make a buy from a customer, they throw out the books that they think won't sell. Not donate - straight into a dumpster out back. My "rescues" were getting out of control, what with children's books from the 50s and 60s, older novels, medical texts, etc...
posted by Liosliath at 7:35 AM on September 21, 2007


You do know what the next stop is if a used bookstore won't take your books, right?
posted by smackfu at 7:37 AM on September 21, 2007


book heaven?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:53 AM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I also love these lists and have read a lot of books that I probably wouldn't have noticed except for mention on MeFi, so thanks from me as well.

I get most of my books from the library, so I guess I love books but hate authors.
posted by MtDewd at 8:05 AM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


i second paperbackswap. it's awesome. and sometimes you get a real gem (a first printing of a ray bradbury with the cool 60s cover for instance) in like-new condition.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:21 AM on September 21, 2007


TochterAusElysium: Honey Bear's BLTA's are the BEST FOOD EVER.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:38 AM on September 21, 2007


I love books so much I eat them when I am through with them.

That reminded me of this, which is completely off-topic.
posted by whir at 8:54 AM on September 21, 2007


Yes yes. Thanks for all the book questions on askmefi. They make up the bulk of my favorites.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 9:04 AM on September 21, 2007


support your local bookstore

My local bookstore is full of unemployable Lit and Myth grads who'd rather pick their asses and pretend they're sitting at the Algonquin Roundtable rather than earning their $8.10/hr.

And they don't have a fucking clue who Derek Raymond was.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:45 AM on September 21, 2007


Amazon is nice and all, but really, support your local bookstore and buy there or you will not be leafing through books to find what you want, and you won't be getting it today, anymore.

Bleh. I'm with Alvy Ampersand. Borders and Barnes&Noble were the best thing to happen to books in America since, well, ever. Before that if you didn't live in certain privileged locales you were basically SOL as far as books go. There might have been a Waldenbooks at the mall down the freeway a bit. Maybe.

A lot of independents fail not because of predatory big chains but because a lot of independents really, really suck.
posted by Justinian at 12:11 PM on September 21, 2007


A lot of independents fail not because of predatory big chains but because a lot of independents really, really suck.

True that. People complain about the customer service at the big barns, but at least they don't drop a stink-eye on you just because you asked where the mystery section is.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:51 PM on September 21, 2007


...they euthanize the books? Without putting them up for adoption first?

This doesn't involve gasoline, does it? I... I don't think I could take that.
posted by bonehead at 12:59 PM on September 21, 2007


viz IMx (feat. Ben Stein): don't hate the playa, hate the shifting microeconomic supply profile.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:39 PM on September 21, 2007


I do most of my shopping at Taco Bell, their menu is RIVETING!
posted by blue_beetle at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I love books so much I eat them when I am through with them. - jessamyn

Bill for new keyboard is in the mail. Dear god.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2007


Don't get me started about where you buy your books. I used to care, but now I don't really care where, only if. And not even if, just read. Read something that doesn't have a scroll bar every now and then. Please, kill a tree, we'll grow more. And what a noble sacrifice that cellulose has made.

Sorry I missed this post, I live to recommend books. Guess I was reading when this was on the front of AskMe. Though most likely, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. It's been a fav of the locals of late.

Charity begins at home. Mefi is one of mine. Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:14 PM on September 21, 2007


A lot of independents fail not because of predatory big chains but because a lot of independents really, really suck.

I keep seeing this around here, and I just don't get it. When I shop new instead of used, the service in every indie bookstore I've been in for the last 4 or 5 years has been much more knowledgeable and friendly than the service I get in the chains. Ok, I live near a store that got Publishers Weekly's best bookstore in the country award a few years back, but still. It's consistent. I thank the gods I don't live near one of these apparently ubiquitous snooty independent bookstores y'all like to sneer at. But the poorer service, in my experience, comes from the chains. Every time.
posted by mediareport at 8:23 PM on September 21, 2007


Though most likely, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb. It's been a fav of the locals of late.

Yup, round these parts as well.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 8:30 PM on September 21, 2007


I thank the gods I don't live near one of these apparently ubiquitous snooty independent bookstores y'all like to sneer at. But the poorer service, in my experience, comes from the chains. Every time.

I think maybe it's two separate things. When the big retailers have bad service, it's because of training/morale/apathy issues—their employees are mostly going to be folks clocking into a low-ceiling work-a-day job that happens to involve books. The indies are going to have a higher quotient of people who actually care, on some level or another, about books, or possibly mostly about running or being a part of a small business—but that doesn't mean they know fuckall about customer service.

Every Powell's store I've been into has been great, and they're a sort of Big Indie at this point. Mike Powell knows what the fuck he's doing, and the employees know how to help you find a book, and it's all a pretty good customer experience. Whether they're too successful at this point to count, I dunno.

But there's a ton of other, smaller bookstores in Portland, and while you can walk into every single one and enjoy being around books, the actual experience of interacting with the store varies wildly. I like the charm of a dark little store full of poorly organized old books and manned by a shopkeeper who mostly kind of squints at young people from across the counter until they leave, but that's kind of a shit experience if I'm there to locate and purchase a given book, and not to bask in quirky semi-hostile This Is My Bookstore, Dammit atmosphere.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:00 PM on September 21, 2007


What cortex said - I'm not a huge fan of big box chains, but they consistently provide actual customer service. It's more than I can say for many smaller retailers I've encountered who seem to think "independent" means they're free of any sort of responsibility to their patrons.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:18 PM on September 21, 2007


But there's a ton of other, smaller bookstores in Portland

Well, there you go. Portland is and has been for quite some time extremely book friendly. Travel to, say, suburban Connecticut (Danbury, frex) in the mid 80s and tell me what you think of the book-buying experience. Travel there now and compare the experience at shopping at a Borders.

I submit that for most people, the experience in Danbury is more representative than the experience in Portland, or San Francisco, or Boston.
posted by Justinian at 9:20 PM on September 21, 2007


(Er, my post reads like I'm disagreeing with cortex. I actually meant to expand on it; not only are many small independents not so great but they don't even exist in many places.)

Sorry for the tone problem.
posted by Justinian at 9:21 PM on September 21, 2007


many smaller retailers I've encountered who seem to think "independent" means they're free of any sort of responsibility to their patrons

I must be spoiled or something. I don't encounter those stores.
posted by mediareport at 9:53 PM on September 21, 2007


Yes you are.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:40 AM on September 22, 2007


After I closed my store the nearest indie was 75 miles away. A Borders has just opened at the mall in that indie's town and if it's successful in closing that indie, the next closest will be over 200 miles away.

Michael Powell is rather bright. I've long admired Powell's. He did two things right before many others, he mixed new and used, and he invested in his Web site. But he's clearly an exception, not a rule. And service is a crap shoot, no matter where you get your books. Assholes work at the chains too. Even the never-touched-by-human-hands distribution system at Amazon makes mistakes. My experience has been that poor service is equally distributed throughout the book distribution system, just as is it with any other retail experience. My own store had a few over educated staff members who came off as a bit arrogant, but they were very useful in dealing with arrogant customers. It's a two way street.

The problem with the loss of indies is not just the loss of in-depth book expertise, it's also the loss of the knowledge of a local market. O'Reilly books were practically unheard of in the early 90s. You couldn't find them in any of the chains, and few people were even using Amazon back then. But I sold them by the case because I recognized their value to our customer base. And I used them myself and loved them. An innovative publisher like that today would have a hell of a time trying to get into the chains because of some of the fundamentals of the book business. Margins in publishing are very slim. If you're starting out and have no backlist, the chains won't touch you. Most of the books you see at chains on display tables or in endcaps are there because the publisher paid the chain for that placement. It's called co-op in the trade and Amazon uses it too. It plays a big part in the ranking of their "relevant" search results and recommendations. New publishers simply couldn't afford what they charge.

That's one of my biggest concerns about the consolidation of book distribution today. It punishes innovative publishing. McSweeney's just had a very close brush with death because of that consolidation. If they had to close their doors the cultural landscape would clearly have suffered. And it would have had nothing to do with quality.

The Internet has long been hailed for it's democratizing and disintermediating potential. I'm not sure that's what's happening though. With Amazon and the chains now dominating over 80% of the retail new book market, we ought be very concerned about what they're doing to publishing and the cultural richness of our individual communities. But were too focused instead on price and popularity to notice what's not on the shelf in the chains, or that great book on page 16 of our Amazon search results. That shrinking space was what the indies provided. A level playing field built on quality and local knowledge. I only hope the pendulum starts to swing the other way, and soon.

Sorry for the screed but I told you not to get me started. I guess I do care but I'm getting tired of trying to show others why they should. Youns had to derail this thread into a debate about where we get our books. You had me at thank you. I'll continue to link to Amazon using Mefi affiliate links here because I don't have an indie to support anymore. And MeFi is a community I really want to support.
posted by Toekneesan at 6:37 AM on September 22, 2007


Even the never-touched-by-human-hands distribution system at Amazon makes mistakes.

Story: my mom once ordered a gorgeous atlas for a long-distance relative through an online big book store. The relative (an innocent bar mitzvah boy) instead received the first season on DVD of "Desperate Housewives." It was hilarious when we figured that one out.
Just had to share.
posted by bassjump at 1:43 PM on September 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


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