A Million Books for Millions of Readers: Books-A-Million and their Collection of Literature
According to Peter N. Miller, historian and Dean Professor at Bard College, collection is more than just an ordinary past-time or desire of the materialistic consumer; collection represents more than just owning every version of an object, even the rare ones, and displaying them for all to see. Collection, and the act of collecting, is a behavior that brings a sense of purpose and identity to an object and its owner, (How Objects). How this could possibly relate to a Books-A-Million; specifically one that sits in a dying shopping mall in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania; is even more complicated than the idea of collection itself. Books-A-Million, although it looks like every other chain from the outside, provides a collection of literature inside meant to open doors to any reader in the Susquehanna Valley. From children’s books, to classic literature, to bestsellers, Books-A-Million hopes to find a happy medium between the aesthetic bookstore and the department store through its collection.
In order to understand Books-A-Million’s collection, we must first dive into the store itself. Below is an interactive floor-plan that displays all of the available genres of literature in this BAM! and how they are placed throughout the store. Take some time to hover over each of the icons, which provide a virtual walk-through of the store.
After taking some time to venture through the aisles of diverse literature this Books-A-Million has to offer, it may appear overwhelming to the average book-buying consumer. Books stretch across every square-inch of the store, some even spilling out into the hallway of the mall during certain times of the year. Considering the way that these book genres are arranged; for example, cookbooks finding a place right by children’s storybooks and across the way from fantasy novels; it may even seem impossible to find that one book desired among thousands. Perhaps there is a method behind this madness?
Try to view this store through the lens of the consumer. Books-A-Million may appear to have too large of a collection, but this could be beneficial depending on what one is looking for. For the Standard Consumer, which Laura J. Miller in her book describes as the consumer seeking convenience and comfort in their shopping experience, this bookstore is a great place to find the kind of books the general population may be looking for, (Reluctant Capitalists). Selling literature that may be found useful in day-to-day life; such as cookbooks, study guides, self-help books, and more; the consumer looking for efficiency and ease in their experience can come to Books-A-Million and get exactly what they’re looking for. Not only that, but any books unattainable in store can be easily found online through their website.
For one that wants that aesthetic bookstore experience, the Entertained Consumer, Books-A-Million strives to improve the way it presents their store so one may feel welcome to come and stay a while, (Reluctant Capitalists). Although this particular Books-A-Million doesn’t have the room to provide a sitting area or a café like other chains, they make sure to lure in the book adventurer through their assortment of genres. Books-A-Million’s variety of literature gives readers that fall into a niche a chance to find something new, and vice versa: for within these broad genres lies a sort of specificity.
Unlike the independent bookstore, which may be more limited in what it stocks due to the personal preference of its owner or limited resources, Books-A-Million and the power of the corporate chain allow for, truly, a million books for millions of readers. The convenient system of the store caters to those that aren’t into spending hours in a bookstore, while the collection of diverse literature caters to those who want an immersive experience. Books-A-Million, like many other retail chains of its kind, wants to be the home for any and all readers. Its collection ranges from beginner novels to prestigious classic works, presenting itself to a huge market. Although Books-A-Million isn’t the end-all-be-all of bookstores, it is a starting point and valuable resource for anyone hoping to get their hands on the novel they’ve been looking for.
Miller, Laura J. Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. The University of Chicago, 2006. Print.
The Absolute. Woman shopping in a bookstore. Digital file. http://theabsolutemag.com/6461/books/indiebound-uniting-local-independent-bookstores-with-loyal-customers-one-shopper-at-a-time/
Fluke, Sarah. Aisles of books in Books-A-Million, Selinsgrove, PA. Digital file, 2019.
Web sites, e-sources
Miller, Peter N. “How Objects Speak.” The Chronicle Review, 11 Aug. 2014. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Interactive Image courtesy of ThingLink. All photos tagged within the Interactive Image were also taken by Sarah Fluke.