All Barnes & Nobles Are Not Created Equal

I had some time to kill in Enfield, CT the other night. Most unfortunate. Anybody who knows me knows that my dislike of Connecticut knows no bounds. So anyways I had about an hour and a half, so I headed to the only place I could think of that I might enjoy myself, Barnes & Noble.

Up until now the only B&N I’ve ever been to is the one in Holyoke, MA, which is the closest one to my house, and the one where my writing group is held. Now that one is huge. It has two floors and a large Starbucks cafe and computers to search for store items and a lot of open spaces with tables and chairs and benches and about a dozen or so big cushioned armed chairs scattered throughout the store. There is even a new Lego play table area for the children. There is a whole separate room just for movies and music and another dedicated just to children’s books. Free wi-fi goes without saying. And with large windows, high ceilings and bookshelves low enough that I can, at 5’6″, see over the tops of most of them, the store is bright, airy and open. It’s a very pleasant, comfortable place to spend time. Except when there is alot of screaming kids throwing Legos.

The Enfield store, on the other hand, blows big ol’ chunks.

First of all its only one floor. And that one floor is only about three-quarters of the size of one floor of the store in Holyoke. It’s like a claustrophobic rat maze. The shelves tower over head and criss cross in all different directions so you can’t see more than a few feet in any direction from the second you walk in the store. The passageways between shelves are so narrow it feels like they are closing in on you, like the trash compactor in Star Wars, slowly crushing the life out of you. There are no computers. There are no chairs other than the half-dozen or so tiny cafe tables at the little Starbucks crammed in the corner. I didn’t even bother checking to see if they had wi-fi. I would assume they did, I think all B&Ns do. But really, whats the point if you can’t sit and relax and enjoy using it. And then to get to the registers, you have to squeeze thru a narrow opening between a shelf and a counter, which is blocked by a sign instructing you to “enter here” for check-out.

So to summarize-Holyoke store: GREAT, Enfield store: SUCKS

I’ve been to quite a few book stores in my life. Some good, some bad. This was definitely not one of the better ones. I also wasnt very fond of the Borders that used to be at the Holyoke Mall, altho it was better than the B&N in Enfield. I have a few favorite places to buy books besides the  B&N in Holyoke. I like The Odyssey in South Hadley and Raven Used Books in Northampton. When I used to live in Ware I went to a used book store called The Book Bear in West Brookfield. And never underestimate what you can find in the book section of your local Thrift Store. I have dozens of books that I bought at the Salvation Army. And the Salvation Army at least has comfortable chairs and couches to sit on while you look over your books. Which is more than I can say for the B&N in Enfield.

Its funny, when I was growing up, I had tons of books, but I don’t remember for the life of me where I shopped for them. I remember spending a lot of time at the library and having a lot of library books. But I don’t remember where I bought the books I owned. I only recall the occasional purchase at discount stores or pharmacies as a teenager. Mostly cheap paperback versions of Stephen King or other horror/suspense novels. But as for the majority of my childhood collection, I have no idea. Obviously my parents bought a lot of them for me, but where? I don’t remember ever seeing or going to an actual bookstore as a child. Hm.

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9 responses

  1. Awe, where does this hate of CT come from? I’m from the south, so I hate everywhere cold, nothing against the north otherwise though. I got most of my books through Scholastic book fairs or though catalogs. I have the first 30 or so Box Car children books. I didn’t remember them being as short as they are and now I have to stop nagging my mom to give away books she’ll never read again because I have those and no intention of reading them. I just like keeping that piece of my childhood around.

    I knew not all B&N were equal, but I didn’t know some of them were that bad. Most of the ones I’ve been to land somewhere in the middle. A single story, good collection (as far as I’m concerned anyway) and always have the book I’m looking for. I buy all of my paperbacks from B&N because I like to open them up and feel them before I buy them, but all of my e-books come from Amazon unless there’s a Smashwords sale going on.

    -Eliabeth Hawthorne

    • I did get quite a few books thru school from the Scholastic book club now that you mention it. But I know they didnt all come from there. There must have been a book store that I just dont remember. Because there certainly wasnt internet to order them from back when I was a child.

      I definately prefer shopping for books at a store. I like having a physical book to pick up and flip thru and I like to sit and read at the store for a little bit before I buy. When I do go the digital route, I get my e-books from Nook or iBooks for my iPad.

      • I distinctly remember having a Borders and a Barnes and Noble near me growing up. I don’t think we frequented any smaller book stores.

        I like Smashwords because I can get a book in a variety of file types saved to a sky drive like Amazon, but they don’t always have the book I’m looking for. They didn’t have The Hunger Games for example.

      • I dont think Barnes & Noble or Borders even existed when I was a child. I’m starting to have a vague recollection of a bookstore, I think a Waldenbooks, near the toy store we shopped at in the next town. Both stores are long gone now. I dont think bookstores were a big thing in the 70s or 80s, at least not in the small western Massachusetts town I grew up in. There were probly bookstores in the city but we didnt go shopping in the city much. I live in the city now and most of the bookstores that were here have closed in recent years.

        I think I have some stuff from Smashwords for the Nook. I dont have the Kindle app for my iPad anymore cuz I couldnt get it to work. I installed it and then everytime I tried to download a Kindle book it told me I needed to install the Kindle app so I finally just got rid of it. I make do with the Nook and iBooks apps.

      • Oh I was born in 88, so that’s a definite possibility, I also lived really close to Dallas, which could have had something to do with it. I know Borders owned Waldenbooks at one point, but I don’t know when they were bought out of how that came to be.

  2. I do most of my book shopping on either Amazon or at Half-Priced books. Much less expensive that way. Barnes and Noble and Borders are just too expensive in comparison.

  3. Although I like the atmosphere at the B&N closest to me, I’ev complained about the total, and I mean almost 98% absence of outlets. Woe be to he or she who failed to power up before entering! I’ve found refuge in a couple of local college campuses’ libraries.

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