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Julie Crisp

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Julie Crisp

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Editorial Director Tor UK: discovered the joys of science fiction after reading Dune at ten and hasn't looked back since. Enjoys reading and publishing all styles of fantasy, horror and mind-bendingly good science fiction. Loves single malts, discussions about covers, and red pens. Is quietly determined to take over the universe one book at a time. Twitter: @julieacrisp

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03 Sep 2013

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BOOK BROWSING – A LOST ART?

libraryOkay – so I may be showing my age here but yes, I do remember the days before mobile phones, eBooks and even the Internet. My passion for books began with my dad’s bookshelves and progressed to the local library, charity shops and second-hand bookshops where I’d spend as much time as I was allowed browsing the shelves for a cover that attracted my attention. There was always a frisson of excitement at picking something off the shelves, as much mystery and anticipation at what lay between the covers as opening presents on Christmas Day. I didn’t have the recourse of people recommending books to me – I had to discover them for myself and it was on bookshop and library shelves that I encountered some of my favourite authors – at times almost by accident – who I still read today. And so I wonder, with the age of the internet, the immediacy of information about new releases and blogging, the less tactile experience of online shopping – whether we’ve lost something from the book browsing experience?

Then came the Internet, and after that social media – and let’s face it – who’s not addicted to that?! I LOVE social media, I’m a Twitter fiend, enjoy Facebook and like feeling tapped into different groups. The feeling of community, especially in our particular area, is so strong and social media is the perfect medium for us all to share our passions and our dislikes with fervor and enthusiasm. And so it feels like the shape of how we buy our books has changed.

Ebooks

That’s not to say we don’t still use the high street for browsing, but I wonder whether opinions have already been preconceived or influenced before we even get to the bookshelf. For instance, publishers often release cover artwork, first chapter extracts, author interviews, cover copy – all to raise pre-awareness in a novel before it comes out. As an editor, it’s great to try to get fans onboard and excited about a book as soon as possible. But in doing so have we taken some of the magic of discoverability  out of the book browsing experience? Or does the sense of anticipation in waiting to buy a book you’ve bought into six months ago after seeing it online offset the fact that you’ve not discovered it yourself on the bookshelf while browsing?

Website

Bloggers too can play a big part in shaping reader’s opinions in books. The top reason for buying a novel is still recommendation. And with such active social media, recommendation tends to come from trusted bloggers and reviewers. As publishers, the more people we can have talking about books the better so having an online community so passionate about books and willing to share their opinions about them is great. But I’m curious to know whether with the saturation of information, have we all taken the fun out of book browsing? Or have we just shortened the odds in ensuring that in our hectic lifestyles, we have a better chance of picking up a book that we know we’ll enjoy rather than finding one we think we might enjoy?

It’s a natural progression and one that’s been happening for years as technology has evolved. We’ve seen a much faster transition in the last few years because of the increased usage of social media, online bookstores and  the onset of the eBook revolution. Buying a book, experimenting with different genres, getting recommendations – it’s never been easier.  And while I love that, and enjoy seeking out new books in this way, call me old fashioned but something in me does miss the time spent browsing in those stuffy old bookshops for the gem that will open up a whole new world for me. I don’t know whether it’s the physicality of it, the nostalgia or the harkening back to a time when I actually had time to do that. But I do miss it. What about you? How do you go about buying your books?

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Comments on “BOOK BROWSING – A LOST ART?”

  1. September 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm Iain Purdie says:

    You can’t beat browsing in a book shop. Amazon etc. are a different experience. Usually I’ll use them when I know the title of the book I’m after. Alternatively I might see a “people who bought this, also looked at…” link and follow that. But it’s still not the same as walking into Waterstones or a library and being faces with walls full of books.

    My wife knows if I go into town that if I find a bookshop I’ll be away for an extra hour and I’ll come home with either a new book, or wishing I’d bought one.

    You simply can’t beat picking a book up, checking the print to see how much text is in it, seeing how big it actually is, getting a feel for the style (popular science in particular), and then wondering if the wife will notice when it appears on the groaning shelf at home.

  2. September 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm Neal Asher says:

    I love browsing in book shops but things have changed over the years. The costs and aggravations of shopping in town high streets where most book shops are found have increased and many people now head to out of town supermarkets for their weekly shop – a visit to the town centre is a rare trip. There are less book shops too (where I live), including the shops selling second-hand books, which I really loved visiting. Still, when I do get to one of those shops I often leave with a carrier bag full.

  3. September 3, 2013 at 2:37 pm Andrea J says:

    Browsing at the used places is much more fun than at the new book retailers. I’ve usually got my eye out for a specific author (or two), but I still browse around quite a bit. The used bookstores are like a treasure hunt, with each footstep I find something else I’d forgotten I was interested in.

    Because I live near so many bookstores, Amazon is my retailer of last resort. they are fine if I want an idea of pricing, or to learn who the publisher is, or what else the author wrote, or all the titles in a series, or some such like that. But I want to physically touch the book before purchase. How small is the print? how heavy is the book? is the binding in decent condition? does it have a library stamp or sticker on it? If I’m buying a series, does all the cover art match, and do I care if all the cover art matches? these things are part of the experience of browsing.

    I am an old fashioned girl. Browsing is still a big thing for me. I am all about the hunting and gathering. Gotta look at all the berries in the valley before deciding THIS is the berry I want!

  4. September 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm Jamie says:

    I still enjoy discovering books the ‘old fashioned’ way – I love the thrill of discovering a wild card and falling headfirst into an amazing story completely by chance.

  5. September 22, 2013 at 6:46 pm K R Green says:

    I still prefer “the old fashioned way”. I’m very much into ebooks and being connected enough to a series/author’s social media to be told “here, this will be out soon” is really useful.

    But I also still go to bookshops and just browse. In fact, I probably still get most of my books by looking at the cover, then blurb, then the first page – rather than by recommendation.

    However, I guess that I would then often go online to see if there’s an e-copy – so that feeling of looking for a book, finding one and then getting to take it home with the knowledge that I found it is slightly reduced.

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