Sunday, December 20, 2009

Downsizing rational books

I'm back home for the holidays, woo. One of the weird things about being away from home for so long is seeing all the changes when you come back - favorite restaurants disappear and new ones pop up, businesses change, roads appear... These things seem gradual when you're living there, but are a little unnerving when you've been away.

I went to Borders today and noticed the same thing. I always make a B-line to the science section...but it wasn't there. I had to search for a while before I found it stuck in the reference section. Instead of three bookshelves worth of science books, there were now one and a half. Why had science been moved? Because religious books now took up sixteen bookshelves instead twelve, and supernatural/astrology books took up six bookshelves instead of two. It also took me forever to find the atheist books, which I knew were usually stuck in religion, because they now got a single shelf (so 1/5 of a bookshelf) instead of three...and half of the books there were actually against atheism.

Boo.

I understand it's all about supply and demand, but that still makes me sad. How many Christian apologetics books does a person need? How many versions of the Bible could you possibly want? Four bookshelves were devoted just to the Bible, so apparently you can want a lot. Not only that, but they didn't have hardly any new atheism or science books that have been published in the last year or so - only new book I saw was Dawkins', which was on display next to the Atheists Delusion.

How the heck am I supposed to buy Christmas gifts for all of the heathen friends and family?!*

*And before someone comments about my whining, I really don't care. I just thought it was an interesting observation. I'll get my heathen fix from Amazon.

13 comments:

  1. That's pretty scary, because when I go to the book store in "the Little Vatican", there is 1 bookshelf dedicated to religion, about half of which is on atheism. It's the same amount as dedicated to history and politics, and half as much as is dedicated to science.

    Tells me how anti-science some parts of the US really are.

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  2. You also can request books be ordered or kept in stock. If you do his, they get the idea that they are missing out on a market. Or they just swing the other way and get rid of all the atheist books.

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  3. Why would Dawkins' newest book be under atheism? Doesn't it belong in the science section?

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  4. I should have made that more clear - I didn't see Dawkins' new book in atheism or the science section - I saw it in one of the front displays for suggested nonfiction.

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  5. I think this has to do with the fact that we are in a recession. When there is a recession, people tend to feel helpless and are naturally tempted to seek answers and help from religion, mysticism, therapists, etc... Besides religious books, self-help books sell better during a recession or crisis.

    Bookstore managers know about this correlation and strategically expand religion/mysticism/self-help book inventories in order to increase sales.

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  6. How many Christian apologetics books does a person need?

    To be fair, they have a lot to apologize for.

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  7. I'm pretty sure this is a regional thing, the Barns & Nobles near me recently added shelf space to the science section (reference and cooking seems to have been the losers on that one), granted the science section is still only about half the size of the religious section but it's a move in the right direction.

    The one thing that's sorta weird is that most of the local book stores seem to have almost as much new age/ paganism stuff as they do christian, always wondered about that.

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  8. This is a big part of why I do most of my book buying at Amazon.com. We really only have one local bookstore, and it simply doesn't carry most of what I want to read. And yet, if I wanted to stock up on "Left Behind" books, it would be the place to go.

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  9. Sometimes it helps if you shop in local, non-franchised types of places; you know, the ones that have actual atmosphere that wasn't dreamed up by the marketing departments. There are probably several in Chicago owned by science junkies. Shopping locally feels better anyway.

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  10. Given that many atheist books have been on the bestseller list in the past few years, I'm somewhat surprised they're minimizing the atheist section. Given that, I'm suspecting it's not just a case of supply and demand, but rather, a case of "we don't want those nasty atheists".

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  11. Considering how easy it is to offend Christians (just not being one is often enough), it probably makes business sense to cater to them like this.

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  12. religion needs to justify itself constantly, and the people who follow it need to be constantly told that what they believe isn't bullshit, so they need constant reaffirmation.

    Whereas those who believe in science, and actual information, knowledge, and fact, understand what truth is and move on to gain more truth, rather than having to go back and answer "why is it that I believe such nonsence again?"

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  13. I know that Hitchens, for one, proposed a boycott on Borders after they pulled issues of /The Free Inquiry/ that featured the Mohammad cartoons. I don't think he was refusing to sell his own titles their (or if his publisher would even allow such a thing), but did write in his slate column that he wouldn't do any more readings/signings at any of their establishments.

    Source:
    Who needs a state censor when the press bites its own tongue so effectively?
    http://www.slate.com/id/2184493/

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