Books-(And Other Things)-A-Million
As with most stores, the layout of the store isn’t just something that makes it easier to navigate or to make the store look appealing enough to venture into. The layout usually has some deeper meaning or ulterior motive that sucks the customers into it without their knowing, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it accomplishes the store’s goal of making money from their generally large collection of this and that.
With Books-A-Million, they do just that. Immediately upon entering the store there is a very unnoticeable force that gently pushes you to the front left side of the store where conveniently placed are odds and ends of your favorite movies, books, comics, etc. and I will refer to these unique purchases as merchandise (merch on the layout). Along the left wall once you walk past the book themed board games, you also find the best sellers with their attractive covers facing front for all to see as you reach the corner of the store and find yourself lost in the titles, curiously checking for names you know and things you don’t, possibly finding a new book for yourself that you didn’t know you wanted.
As you walk along the left wall, you venture into categories such as how to books for those who would like to have a guide or for those curious to learn a new skill, and to the right of you will be the comics, manga, and young adult books for you to peruse so after reading your new how to book you have a book or two to read in your down time. Right off the bat, the lower left corner of the store has some of the most important books in the store, the educational books, the popular good reads, and the ones that appeal to individuals based on their interests alone.
Upon reaching the back-left section of the store things get a little overwhelming with the amalgamation of reference books, various tables of more fiction and young adult, and unique but slightly unsettling works of history that you didn’t know existed. Finding yourself in such a section you’ll be seeing what crazy history conspiracies you can find along the shelves or browsing the reference books to see what other authors or work contain topics that interest you and where to find them. Another section in this area of the store is the very corner containing the baby books and parenting books. Why so far away? Well, once you find a book to read in your personal time, a book to learn a new skill, and maybe a book for a friend, you’ll have made it to what you were looking for, a book on what to expect while pregnant, and even the child’s first book once they are old enough to read. Leaving the first half of the store so to speak, you’re already carrying three or more books possibly when all you wanted was a leisurely read.
As your curiosity gets the better of you and you stroll into the back right of the store, you’ll find a large selection of works for young kids and teenagers along the walls with a mixture of various merchandise that are from major game franchises or popular book series that ‘every” child has read. Once again you may find yourself picking up a book for a friend or for someone’s child in hopes that they will enjoy it. Already at four or more books, you venture into the last section of the store, the middle right-ish area where the adult fiction, poetry, and philosophical books await a wandering soul to enlighten with their words. After you’ve accidentally found a book for everyone in the family besides yourself possibly, it’s your time to unwind and browse the works of the enlightened, along with every erotic fiction book you’ve never heard of. By the time you leave the final section of books, you find yourself approaching the counter to finalize your purchase of five or more books.
Before you can spend more money than you intended to, you must first navigate the “Pillars of Merchandise” that slow your journey’s progress. These columns of trinkets and other cute or cool items sole purpose is to attract your eye and convince you to spend even more. Finally, you reach the counter and you’re ready to buy your five books, five individualized bookmarks, two magnets for your fridge at home or college, and a cool new key-chain to put on your backpack or keys so everyone can see it next time you’re out and about.
Now to discuss this huge collection of books and items that Books-A-Million has obtained is sort of complicated. Overall, the collection they have is not personal as we like to think collections are, such as someone’s stamp collection or anything else they have sweated over to accumulate. BAM has a collection that is meant to be dwindled and sold, one that is meant to be turned into someone else’s collection of pride and joy, something that reflects who they are. In the words of Walter Benjamin, “ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.” (Benjamin, 67). This large expanse of books and merchandise does in fact reflect who BAM is, which is a store that thrives of the capitalist ways of the country, that’s just how business works. Benjamin also states that “The acquisition of books is by no means a matter of money or expert knowledge alone. Not even both factors together suffice for the establishment of a real library, which is always somewhat impenetrable and at the same time uniquely itself.” (Benjamin, 63).
The only thing lacking from this assortment is the personal touch that a collection emanates just from looking at it. If someone has spent years collecting every quarter for every state, for each year a new one was issued, just hearing of such a feat would induce an amount of respect for them, as they put blood, sweat, and tears into such a thing that they find near and dear to them. “The phenomenon of collecting loses its meaning as it loses its personal owner.” (Benjamin, 67). Upon walking into BAM, you just get the sense that they are trying to stock something for everyone in order to make a living, there is nothing personal about a chain book store, yet it has its own identity because of that along with how it presents itself to the public.
Overall, Books-A-Million is a place with a collection of its own that holds no personal value, a hallowed collection if one will. It has a collection that does not define itself, but one that is meant to be available to the public for those individuals to build their own collection and to shape their own experiences with these books and the experience of shopping in this store. While this store has little to no personality since it is a chain store and has standards to follow, the one common goal they all have in mind with what they sell is for individuals to expand their collection and to enjoy doing it.
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Schocken Books.
Layout courtesy of basic Microsoft Paint skills
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