On why I leave bookstores empty handed.

I read constantly. When my kids were little and we lived in Auckland, I used to go to borders or whitcoulls and come back with a box of books. We had to ration ourselves.

I left most of that library when I moved to Dunedin, but started again: the habit did not stop.

Today I bought a book. For work. I have not done so for about eighteen months. I leave bookstores empty handed.

For they don't have what I like to read: and most of the time Amazon does not have it as well.

By 1997, we started referring to our bookstore trip as “going to be disappointed by Barnes and Noble.” Because largely it was. More and more, I found it difficult to find anything at all to read on the fiction shelves. When you consider that I read science fiction, fantasy, mystery and in a pinch various kinds of historical fiction and romance, this was nothing short of astonishing.

Mystery at the time was often in the grip of what I called “waves of crazy.” The one I remember best happened later, around 2005? and it was bookshelves filled with nothing but what I called “Sex in the city” mysteries, where the single protagonist obsessed on sex and shoes. It was bizarre, disturbing, and I still have no idea what the publishers were thinking, except that apparently a TV series translated to general readership.

Fantasy had fallen down a hole of “the poor deserving heroine gets a sword” and the fascinating, intricate civilizations that are, to me, the redeeming feature of heroic fantasy had vanished.

Science fiction… Well, our stores, both indie and B & N seemed to mostly carry game-related and tv-series related fiction. Since I’m not interested in either, I slowly stopped reading SF.

Oh, and indie stores weren’t better (and were often worse) than B & N. In my area (and I grant you we lived almost next door to a college) they were populated by people who spent a lot of time trying to radiate intellectual superiority. One stock phrase was “We don’t stock THAT.” And “that” mostly referred to the sort of books I liked to read.

I did buy — from the discounted tables — a vast quantity of history books, most of them “swords in the middle ages” type of general information things. Not deep, but the sort of thing a writer needed in pre-internet age, when you hit a point in the story and went “how thick was the blade in this time period, again?”

Sarah Hoyt

man sitting inside librabry
Photo by hannah grace / Unsplash

Second hand bookshops are better, because they have old books. If you can find them: all too often they are pulped. Since I am out of shelf space, I have them loaded on an e reader (not from Amazon). But even the alternative publication companies are producing less stuff that I like. I don't think the decline is entirely due to this: Amazon and the large conglomorates have too high a set of fees or a burn rate to make medium sized subsidaries viable.

Meanwhile, no one seems to have noticed that both Tor and Baen are rapidly sliding towards nonexistence. I've heard that Macmillan is looking to get rid of Tor from several sources over the last three months. The changes you've seen in Castalia's practices of late are the direct result of Amazon destroying the ebook publishing market, and those changes are hurting the traditional publishers a lot more than a company like Castalia that doesn't rely as heavily upon the various channels.

The acid test is going to be in April. It's going to be fascinating to see how well a book that is in very high demand does through the channel versus direct.
Vox Day, Vox Popoli

I have had a higher strike rate reading Castalia -- who are tiny -- than Baen recently. A lot of their older authors are not being edited competently (or at all). Their books are worse.

Particularly when you can access C.S Lewis, J.R.R. TolkienDorothy L Sayers, Robert Heinlen (his early work is better than much currently praised late work) Tolkien and the Chronicles of Master Li for light reading, and the Russians from Solzhenitsyn to Zamyatin when you need something with more meat.

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