Does Trash Culture Have a Place in Indie Bookstores?

Book ordering is critically important in how customers view a store, stock is (if not the most important) one of the single reasons a customer will purchase in your store. But is there some stock which has a detrimental effect to how an indie store is viewed?

Admittedly, this blog is more of a discussion point than an essay. With the rapid production of trash culture publications, should indie stores order them, or do they belong in Kmart? The “stars” of Jersey Shore have written biographies, which sit right amongst Miley Cyrus and Justin Beiber. Relationship advice from ex-call girls and ‘hook-up-artists’, al-la Neil Strauss, has found a place in self-help and pop psychology shelves.

I have never had a problem with pop culture, please don’t misunderstand me, I adore David and Amy Serdais and have read Tina Fey’s recently released biography. What I am wondering is if there is a line where a certain calibre of culture starts to become wasted space on shelves of independent bookstores.

There is a place for classical literature in most generic bookstores (those being, without a specific genre focus) and I do not believe that bookstores should be entirely to the focus of the highly educated. There are just some publications that I believe are detrimental to how customers may view an indie bookstore, and those which may never move off shelves due to highly-competitive prices and audience base of K-Mart and Big W.

Call me a book snob, but I have trouble finding the link between an independent bookstore, selling carefully selected titles, selected by educated and passionate staff, and “Booky Wook” by Russell Brand. When I see books such as that on the shelves of independent bookstores, I wonder if they sell? At the store where I work, we have quite a lot of trouble moving trash culture off the shelves. We not only have trouble selling them, but I have had comments from customers questioning the credibility of this stock. Is it possible that such customers are turned off by indies stocking pure revenue-spinning titles such as this? Or is there a market? Should trash culture have a separate section in independent stores?

I am interested to hear discussion from other booksellers on this point. Has anyone had comments from customers regarding this stock? Do you refuse to stock it? Do you sell it like hot-cakes? Personally, and I know I may be alone, I would rather lead a customer toward books which encourage the consumption of more books, such as the previously mentioned David Sedaris. However, I am not one to lose a sale and I support high volume sales from Jodi Picoult , no matter how book snobby I am.

Being part of the younger generation (child of the 90’s, anyone?) I do feel the pressure to consume trash culture, I just chose not to and believe that there are a lot of young people like myself. A part of my generation who would like to have a store which rejects the idea of trash and encourages pop.

All that said, until I own my own store, I may continue to see the dusty jackets of Kat Von D, Motley Crue and similar products. I would just rather not when there are so many well-written and interesting titles. It is a point I believe should be looked at closely by bookstore owners and buyers, is it detrimental to sales, or influential of the times? I suppose, one can only out-run trash culture for so long, thankfully I am a pretty fast runner.

1 thought on “Does Trash Culture Have a Place in Indie Bookstores?”

  1. I’ve been in the book business 17 years – there are over 50,000 titles currently on our shelves. If I only stocked what I liked to read or what I deemed ‘worthy’ of interest – I’d be able to run my store from my living room.

    If you’re a General Interest Book Store – you have to try to appeal to the masses, whether you agree with their taste or not.

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