Sunday, December 09, 2007

Thoughts About My Visit To Barnes & Noble Today

For the first time in over a year I took a trip to a brand new Barnes & Noble store. And I was alone. I was free to browse!

I had a gift card that I was willing to use if I found something worthy. I am so unused to buying books at the local B&N that this thing has been sitting in my wallet for four months unused!

I have an educator discount card which they give to home educators and teachers. However my 'store cards' are over an inch thick and somehow in changing pocketbooks last summer I misplaced all of them. I was thinking I might have to re-apply for a new card. I hate renewing time as the staff always asks me for further proof of homeschooling above and beyond my homeschooling ID card. They usually want a 'letter from the state'. Well no such thing exists in Connecticut. They seem so worried of fraud with people pretending they homeschool that it is ridiculous. Actually to be more fair the local Borders (Fairfield CT) has really harrassed me about my purchases. Asking for every book, "Are you sure this is for homeschooling?". Duh, it is a children's history book, a science book, so on and so forth. Well guess what local bookstore cashiers, you've driven my sales to With Amazon I get larger discounts than their educator discounts, I get free shipping and I don't pay the 6% sales tax, and I don't use gasoline or waste my driving time either.

First I glanced at the magazines. I was really surprised at how so many people were sitting there reading the magazines. But worse was the guy reading a newspaper (that he didn't pay for) and he was making a mess of it. That takes gall.

I then selected three arts and crafts books to look at. I had not been able to tell when viewing the info on Amazon from the Internet if they were worth owning or not, if I could really use them or if they were not of interest to me.

One book I skimmed is about making books (binding one's own books). I have an issue with written directions. Sometimes they make no sense to me. Sometimes the accompanying illustations are helpful and sometimes they are confusing. I found a great book that I would love to own. I saw some that are in that category of books that I'd never be able to understand. So now I have a book on my wish list that I want "How To Make Books" by Esther K. Smith. I really, really want this book. It has such a range of projects and teaches the copic stitch among other things.

I have blogged in the past about the book "Stupid Sock Creatures" by John Murphy. I was surprised to see a tabletop display that had three different books that make odd looking creatures out of socks and/or gloves and/or fabrics. Since I love John Murphy's book so much I wished it was on the table with that display so maybe he'd make some sales. These are the books I saw there which I'd not known about before.

1. "Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves" by Miyako Kanamori. Most of the examples in the book were with white socks or cream colored socks with accent colors and resembled twists on the old sock monkeys. They were so white they all looked like they were made with brand new socks by the way. Very cute and muted. Not too 'weird'. Publshed November 2006.

2. "Plush-o-Rama: Curious Creatures for Immature Adults" by Linda Kopp. Cute and wacky and weird creatures, all colors. Published May 2007.

3. "Softies: Simple Instructions for 25 Plush Pals" by Therese Laskey, Leah Kramer, and Laurie Frankel. Silly and odd in the same way as John Murphy's "Stupid Sock Creatures" but using felt and fabrics. Published August 2007.

All of those books on making stuffed creatures are fun and worth buying if you are into that kind of crafting and have the money to spend! They were all different enough and had different visual insipiration value.

Last week I watched a re-run of an episode of "Craft Lab" on the DIY Network. A few months ago, after clicking through art and craft blogs I found Jennifer Perkins blog and read that she hosts this show that I hadn't known existed. The guest was Laura Mika. My boys wanted to watch the show with me as they love working with polymer clay. The big project they did in the book is outlined in her July 2007 book "Mixed Media Mosaics: Techniques & Projects Using Polymer Clay Tiles, Beads & Other Embellishments". I skimmed the book and it was full of inspirational photos and had directions for other projects as well. Once you have the basics down (which I learned from watching the show) you don't need to own the book. This is a book that I'd buy for the inspirational viewing and for easy reference if I wanted to make the various projects as she did. If money was not an object I'd definately buy it.

I also read another book which was very good. My pen was not working so I could not jot down the title and I just knew I'd forget it (darn). It was a nifty book that sought to explore the crafting revolution and to discuss the 'scene' as it has been evolving. The book also had directions to make all kinds of different crafts ranging from paper crafts to knitting to needleworking to sewing. I would not make most of what was in there but it was a very fun book and quite affordable for all that it offered for a full retail of JUST $17.95. Darn now I wish I remembered the title!

I glanced at the books for teachers and was sorely disappointed in their selections. I was hoping to find some of Carol Butzow's books there and was going to buy one or two. I know Amazon doesn't discount them so I wouldn't care about buying them at B&N using my educator discount.

I then visited the manga section for the first time and was blown away. I cannot believe how much manga is out there. My older son is asking to read Naruto (a manga series which is also an anime cartoon and also a trading card game) as he has seen a couple of episodes of the carton while visiting my brother (who was showing it to his then-four year old, who is now five and still watching it). I noted that Naruto series of manga was not rated (some of the manga books are rated T for Teen). However on page 14 of volume one there was a nude woman with the absolute essentials covered but nothing else. That was enough to me to underscore I won't be having them read those anytime soon. (This weekend I also have been emailing with a local homeschooling mother whose 13 year old son I saw reading it last week. That teen said the series is not right for kids and that in his opinion 'none of the manga is'.)

On the way out I saw a big display next to the door for "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and "The Daring Book for Girls" (both for 20% off). I had read some controversy or shall I say complaints on blogs about the book for girls. I'll say this: the glitter on the cover was unnecessary and was a mistake, I believe. That's all I'll say about that. Once I had watched a promo video for "Dangerous" on and it looked cool but to be honest we already own The American Boys Handy Book" which has all that stuff and more. I own other books of 'stuff to do' and even some antique Boy Scout Handbooks which have all that stuff in them. I don't need yet another book with the same old stuff reprinted into a new format.

Dragonology book

Wizardology book

I then noticed calendars modeled after the books "Dragonology" and "Wizardology". They were both gorgeous. My boys don't yet have a need for their own wall calendar or I may have bought "Dragonology". I hesitate to admit this as some of my blog readers will say "I told you so" but after my son read "Wizardology" my older son was acting like the magic was real. He was saying spells and asking questions about spells. I tell my son that they are not real as I don't believe in witchcraft. Interestingly enough some of the customer reviews on Amazon say the spells are not accurate for reference for those truly wishing to practice magic. I don't believe in witchcraft so to me it is not real. However some of my Catholic and Christian friends tell me magic is indeed real and for this reason they choose to not allow their children to read Harry Potter or "Wizardology" and some other books which have magic in them.

Wizardology 2008 Wall Calendar

Dragonology 2008 Wall Calendar

In the children's section, which was GIGANTIC and highly decorated and made into a little sub-room of the store, I noticed new ways of organizing the books. The books have labels such as "grades 3-6 ages 8-11" and then there are books in that category. The books were very nicely separated out. I don't recall that same system in the other nearby B&N stores. It was very helpful. In that category was Harry Potter and Gary Paulsen books among others.

I also noted right at the entrance a large display of the Pullman "His Dark Materials" trilogy, taking advantage of the movie release to bolster some book sales. The controversy over that continues on the blogosphere, on websites and in emails. In case you are wondering I bought the books used at library fundraiser books sales not even knowing the controversy. I plan to read them to myself after New Year's so I can have my own opinion. So far I don't like the idea of them at all.

So I left the store empty handed. That is another thing that kills me about the gift cards we get for B&N. Local relatives buy us B&N gift cards yet to use them in the local store for no discount plus 6% sales tax kills me. I see today that some books I wanted are far less discounted on B& compared to I would like the biggest bang for my buck and wished that B& was comparable to

Sigh, what to do?

I also had a thoght while walking around. I was feeling a bit burnt out by books. I just have too many around here. (Did I really say that?) There was a time when I'd yearn to own all the books in B&N and to have access to all of that information. But you know what? I already have books here yet unread and I'm feeling that they are overflowing and so I left empty-handed and content.

(Although I do still have this gift card to use...)

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