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Making myself comfortable at the bookstore - Bob Paslay

OK, I finally did it. I went into Barnes & Noble, plopped down in one of their overstuffed comfortable chairs and read an entire $25 novel. Well, I didn't do it in one sitting but three and not one Barnes & Noble but two, but I read Caleb Carr's novel about Sherlock Holmes, The Italian Secretary. I am a big Caleb Carr fan but in this case I have too many books and I intended to read just a few pages but I kept on going.

I know you are tired of hearing about us old-timers getting older and how things were in the good old days. But they were different in the era of Eisenhower and Kennedy when I was a kid and then teen. Post Office employees growled and told you they didn't have time to pull special commemorative stamps for us fledgling collectors. Now they have whole sections set aside to encourage us to collect. They realized that a stamp that probably costs a tenth of a penny to print could be sold for 37 cents and they never had to deliver it. So it was almost pure profit.

Also, the local stores had everything under glass cases and you had to ask a clerk to let you examine it closer. Those same clerks followed people around the stores asking repeatedly if they could help them. It took any fun out of browsing.

Book stores had their books displayed but they frowned on you if you lingered over them too much. You read the back cover but you felt like an alarm would go off if you actually opened the book and read a few paragraphs. And if you dared read a magazine for more than 30 cents either a clerk or a big sign or both alerted you that the magazines were there for buying, not reading.

All that has changed. We are creatures of our upbringing and I still feel like a sneak thief for reading a book in the book store. But I am getting over it. Those decades younger than me have no problem with the concept since it was always there when they began to read.

Here is the way I reason it. I am contributing to a very successful marketing technique by B&N, and it must be working because it is the nation's No. 1 bookseller. And I cannot even begin to list the cds, books and magazines that I have bought from the company over the years. I bought the last Harry Potter there and I will likely, almost assuredly buy the new one coming out in July.

I went to the Internet for a little research and here is what I found out about the company, in addition to it being number one in the country. It operates about 665 Barnes & Noble superstores throughout 49 states and the District of Columbia. It also owns about 155 mostly mall-based B. Dalton bookstores. In 2004 the company purchased all of the shares of its online arm, barnesandnoble.com, that it didn't already own. Barnes & Noble's remaining businesses include how-to book publisher Sterling Publishing Co., and a 75-percent interest in seasonal retailer Calendar Club. The company exited the video game retailing business in 2004 when it spun off its GameStop subsidiary -- the No. 1 US video game retailer.

Wow, pretty impressive hmmm? Hold on let me think a second. OK, I would guess that I have been in about 30 of their bookstores. There is one in my hometown, one in Morrow, four that I know of in Atlanta. I have been to the ones in New York City and I always drop in on vacation where ever I am.

I am sure tons of research went into the marketing plan of encouraging you to drink coffee and read their magazines and books and listen to their music.

Here is what I notice and correct me if I am wrong.

First, no store has more than a few comfortable chairs. That encourages you to read but limits the number who could do like me and plop down and read an entire book. Secondly, it has a lot of chairs over at their coffee shop. They probably figure they are charging you more than the cost of the magazine for a cup of coffee and a dessert. Also, their earphones to listen to music let you hear a little of the song but not the whole song. At one time you could stand there and listen to the entire cd.

So this maga-corporation knows what it's doing and so I don't feel too bad about ripping them off for one book. I promise to make it up in the future.

Bob Paslay is assistant managing editor of the News Daily and Daily Herald and can be reached at bpaslay@news-daily.com or at (770) 478-5753 Ext. 257.