Thursday, June 06, 2013

Bookshop Layout.

A question was raised on Twitter earlier today by Brie (@14NC)

who like me would prefer bookshops to put all fiction together like a library rather than in to genres? 
It got a few people thinking, including me.
Despite the fact that a lot of libraries do separate genre fiction, the crux of the question was about the layout of bookshops.
When we first opened, we tried a couple of things. One of them was incorporating poetry into fiction.
I wrote this about it on the blog, way back in 2008.
" At the moment we've got poetry, essays and plays in with fiction. The reason for this was that we hoped people would be doing the usual thing of looking through fiction (the main section people look through) and would find a book of poetry 'by mistake'. It's worked well on some occasions, and I doubt we'd have sold 3 copies of Tarantula by Bob Dylan, if it had been in the poetry section, but at the same time we've uncovered a large population of local poets who are up in arms about this. So we've caved in."
Funny thing is though, looking back, we don't sell any poetry from the poetry section. And we did sell it when it was in fiction.
There's the argument that if a customer is, say, a sci-fi nut, who reads nothing but science fiction, he/she will want this to be a separate section. If Science Fiction was incorporated into Fiction, I'm worried that it will put those customers off.
It's the same with crime, horror etc. But I love the idea of serendipity when it comes to browsing. Finding something that you'd never expect to find. Perhaps having it all under the label "Fiction" will mean that more people will find something unexpected and try something different....
Oh man, this is tricky.
Daunt Bookshops do things differently again. They shelve books geographically - with guides, phrase books, travel writing, history and fiction grouped by their relevant country. This is brilliant and quirky. And it seems to work for them. But their shops are aimed specifically at book lovers with time to browse and also a bit of disposable income (their branches are located in the more well off areas of London).
I would love to integrate horror, crime, science fiction, fantasy and short stories into the general fiction section, but I need persuading that it's a good idea. Oh, and graphic novels too. Perhaps there's a way which the genres can be highlighted within the section. Maybe it doesn't have to be alphabetical. I don't know.
Some of our customers (particularly the ones who like specific genres) will not be keen on this idea. But there's something about it that I like.
Any advice or suggestions would be very welcome.


Anonymous said...

Go for broke - group all books by colour of spine (alphabetically within each colour). You'll never find half of them but it'll make for a beautiful shop.

Dani Hall said...

If I had my own bookshop I would be really tempted to try this. This is based on my own experiences as a customer and as former bookshop manager. Now, more than ever, bookshops need to be places where a customer stumbles upon things they weren't expecting to find. Probably a headache but I would look at bringing in literary biography into fiction as well, not to mention non-book items (I'm not just saying that because that is what I sell now!) Imagine looking under Woolf, say, and finding the fiction, diaries, biography and the Penguin Room of Ones Own Mug.

Anonymous said...

What Dani Hall said is a great idea and I think people would really like and enjoy the surprise of stumbling across that kind of things related to what they were looking for.