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January 17, 2005

Barnes & Noble cooking the books? Part II

I posted a while back about the glaringly obvious liberal bias in my local Barnes & Noble’s book displays. I wondered whether the bias was dictated by market forces, or by a political slant coming down from local or national management.

"AkRonin," an Alaskan, responded to my post, saying that there was evident bias even in the B&Ns in Alaska, a red state. Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but it suggests a political, not commercial, motive. Now I have a bit more information to add to the mix.

First, a friend saved this shocking, yet somehow expected pre-election conversation (.pdf file) from a Borders employee bulletin board. (The site deleted the thread when it started receiving unwanted blog-scrutiny.) Brief sample:

You guys don't actually HAVE to sell [Unfit for Command]! Just "carelessly" hide the boxes, "accidentally" drop them off pallets, "forget" to stock the ones you have, and then suggest a nice Al Franken or Micheal [sic] Moore book as a substitute....

I don't care if these Neandertals in fancy suits get mad at me... Anything you can do to make them feel unwelcome is only fair... And they would censor your speech, your books, your music in a heartbeat, so give them a taste of it!

Borders, of course, is not Barnes, but it’s reasonable to think the same kinds of things might go on, at least at the employee level.

Second, for some time I’ve been noticing the books displayed at the Brooklyn Costco, about 35 blocks from the Barnes & Noble. Costco is famous for its fiercely strategic buying and inventory control. They only keep about 50 or so current titles in stock at any given time, and book inventory flies out of that store; you know they keep a sharp eye on every unit moved. I’ve watched their book selections change over countless visits during the last few years, and their selection seems scrupulously balanced politically. For every “Deliver Us From Evil,” there’s a “Bushwhacked.” For every Al Franken book, there’s an Ann Coulter book.

Could Costco be stocking conservative books just for appearances, even though they don’t sell? It doesn’t seem likely. I think conservative books are selling, at least as well as liberal books, and that’s why the new ones keep getting stocked.

Finally, I’ve been using Amazon for about 4 years now, and I’ve never noticed much of a bias. Sometimes they get some kind of bug up their butt about promoting a certain book, and often these are liberal. (Lately it’s been Jon Stewart’s “America.” I assume they have some sort of sweetheart deal from the publisher in these cases.) I haven’t made a study of it, but it appears that, over time, conservative books have been just as common as liberal books on Amazon’s top-seller lists.

So what other explanation could there be for the Barnes & Noble stock and display policies other than political bias? I hate to believe such a thing of a bookstore, but it’s hard to think of any other motives on their part.

Posted by EtherPundit at January 17, 2005 08:05 PM   Category: Books , Brooklyn & NYC , Moonbats , Politics

Comments

Conservatives love Costco.

Posted by: Dylan Sherlock at January 17, 2005 10:05 PM

As your quoted B&N post implied, though, this would NOT be official B&N policy.
We're talking about bookstore clerks taking subversive action at a grass-roots level.
It's no surprise that over-educated, underpaid bookstore clerks tend to lean heavily leftward.
It's the same problem as left-leaning journalists, really.
What type of person tries to make a living as a writer? A reporter?
As opposed to, say, an investment banker?
You can't eliminate the 'self-selection' which biases the group without eliminating individual choice.
But this 'self-selecting group' phenomenon inevitably generates political bias in certain professions.
Caveat emptor!
;-)

Posted by: McClain at January 18, 2005 01:34 AM

Dylan Sherlock: I'm not sure what your source is for conservatives loving Costco, or even what your definition of a conservative is.

I don't know the politics of the shoppers at the Brooklyn Costco, but I can say two things: First, Park Slope is about as close to Berkeley as you can get on the East Coast, so a store on the outskirts of that neighborhood won't have a very high percentage of conservative shoppers, I'd think.

Second, the majority of shoppers there are immigrants or minorities. They may be conservatives -- who knows? -- but it's not exactly a white-bread dittohead crowd.

And yet... someone is buying those right-wing books. Hmm.

Posted by: EtherPundit at January 19, 2005 12:41 AM

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