Monday, November 05, 2007

Where’s the science section?

A small, unexpected windfall in the form of a gift card made us go down to the nearest Barnes & Nobles bookstore for some bookshopping. It has been a while since I visited a large bookstore. While in Seattle, I’d always walk down to any one of the half dozen used bookstores all around campus, and delight in browsing through their collections amidst the irresistible aroma of old books. But once I moved to Dallas even that became a novelty, since there aren’t too many used bookstores around in these parts. Anyway, I do most of my bookshopping online, thanks to the wonderful choice of Amazon,, Abebooks and the likes. Essentially, it had been years since I had last stepped into a large bookstore like Barnes & Nobles.

So a good hour or more was spent browsing through the collections at Barnes & Nobles. There were impressive fiction and non-fiction sections and aisle after aisle of the latest bestsellers. There was an excellent section on history, from US through world history, and there were also excellent collections of books on travel and places. The religion section was, not unexpectedly, massive. There were three full aisles for bibles alone, and four or five more aisles for all sorts of books on religion (mostly Christianity). Clearly, the demand for such fiction knows no bounds here.

But I was looking for the science section. So I searched and I searched, and finally found it. There it was, one single shelf, tucked in between “oversize books” and “atlases”, with a tiny collection of books, most of which were on astronomy (stargazing, actually). I couldn’t believe that was it, so looked around some more, and finally found two more shelves, one with books on physics, and another shelf with books on chemistry and biology combined. In the biology section was a pitifully small collection of books, a couple on Darwin, three of Richard Dawkins’ books, and Michael Behe’s “Edge of Evolution”, which should rightly have been in the speculative fiction section and not in the science/biology section.

That was it. A whole massive bookstore with a gazillion books, and three small shelves devoted to all of science. If that isn’t disappointing, tell me what is.

I managed to pick up Bill Bryson’s “A short history of nearly everything”, which has been on my reading list for two years now, as well as a nice book (with superb pictures) on lost cities (great metropolises of the past that lie in ruin today) as what claims to be “the 30 best drinking games from around the world”, and all of this left me reasonably satisfied.

But talk about slender pickings! Sticking to Amazon might just seem better. I wonder if the store collections are similar across the country, or if different regions have slightly different collections, reflecting the demand and tastes of local readers?


Anonymous said...

Borders is at least two shelves better than Barnes for Science.

But I guess your situation is more of getting stuck with a Barnes gift coupon. tough luck.

BTW, I thought there were plenty of half-price book stores in and around Dallas area (at least five or six)?!

[BTW2, Half Price, Amazon, Borders and its ambiance with built in coffee shops etc. are the important facilities I miss very much in India.]

Anonymous said...

Well, I can attest that the B&N in CS is slightly better. We have about 8-10 shelves on science books I think...

I'm also pretty sure that books carried at a particular outlet depend on the customer profile and neighborhood demographics. I've noticed that about clothes stores like Macys too.

CuriousCat said...

Agree with Ash here..the last B&N I went into was near washington square park in the city...pretty decent all round...even popular science...

Wavefunction said...

The Borders in Atlanta indeed has a fairly respectable science section but it is titled "Computers and Technology". Sob.

Sunil said...'re right about half price books, there are a few of them around Dallas. But the difference is in Dallas, you have to drive out to a bookstore. It is an actual effort. I was spoiled by the fact that there was a used bookstore or a coffee shop just a short walk away from anywhere I lived in Seattle :-). But I should quit whining. That said, though there aren't great online choices in India, I think there are some very nice bookstores. Premier in Bangalore used to be a favorite haunt (though it's very sad that it closed), but there are so many more good ones at least in the big cities.

Ash...I think you and curiouscat are absolutely right about customer demographics. I didn't know how much of that stores like Barnes and Nobles implemented, since I think of them as bookstore "MacDonalds". But I guess they have to do this in order to be more competitive.

Ashutosh...heh.....unfortunately that's a section I usually skip :-)