On the weekend I went in to the new Borders store in the Canberra Centre to have a look at the acres of books.
Over the years, as Borders has spread across the face of the globe, I’ve heard a lot of good things about them from friends in parts foreign. That they have a coffee shop inside the store, and encourage readers to have a read of a book they fancy over coffee before deciding if they want to buy it, was much touted as a bonus.
So I was moderately excited when I walked in, expecting a cornucopia of bookish delights.
And I have to say I was underwhelmed.
Sure they have a lot of books but are they better books that what you can find in a smaller book store? If they were I couldn’t identify or find them amongst the other books. And you’re not just wading through piles of books. Cross-merchandising litters the shelves. Would you like a new skin for your iPod with that book? I wouldn’t.
The new releases section is particularly underwhelming. Not bad as such, just no different at all from any other decent book shop. More tellingly is a lack of a new release area in each of the genre sections. I don’t know about you but I go to the bookstore mostly to buy new books. Read a book a week for 25 years and you’ve in large part already read everything you want to from the back-catalogue.
Compare and contrast with my existing bookstore of choice in Civic, Dymocks. Aside from their unsettlingly sexy staff (in a movie-librarian kind of way) the new releases in each section are clearly displayed and the staff have recommendation notes on the shelves. People who work in bookstores are no bad source of information about what’s a good book.
So while Dymocks might have less books I can quickly and reliably find the books I want, and get out.
Borders on the other hand gives you acres of shelf space to browse in the slightly forlorn hope of finding something interesting, and a greater chance of finding some unrelated product to impulse buy.
And there we have it! Borders is for women!
It’s designed to maximise the time spent shopping, something that men abhor and a great many women seem to treasure. And then you can go for coffee (but don’t get too excited it’s just Gloria Jeans).
Now that I think about it my friends who spoke so glowingly of Borders all those years ago were all women too.
Which is not to say its all bad, if I was to discover a new author I suppose Borders would be the obvious place to go to get the older titles.