Muse by Craig Ranapia

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Muse: Shelf Life: The Dying Elephant in The Book Room?

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  • James Butler,

    I’m loving the new Auckland Super City Super Library System. Before the amalgamation, I discovered that some books I wanted to read ( The Dying Earth , The Sparrow) were only available in far-flung branches on the Shore, so I waited until November then requested them online. Brilliant!

    I also love Time Out books, and their children’s section is nice, except when you can smell dope smoke drifting in from the back room; it’s kinda amusing I guess, but not when I have my children with me. To be fair, it hasn’t happened recently.

    I think my main motivation for wanting to continue buying books (and CDs, DVDs) rather than just borrowing or downloading, is so that my children will might have the same chance I did to discover new and wonderful things just by wandering around the house feeling bored. But then, I guess we have the Internet for that now, too.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Thomas Beagle,

    Dear James Butler. You may think you want to read The Sparrow but, trust me, you don't. Yes, thank you, the therapy helped and I now feel a lot better.

    As for books and me, I read as much as I ever did, but nowadays it tends to be websites rather than books...

    New Zealand • Since Nov 2007 • 36 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Derham,

    I mostly buy books from Whitcoulls or Borders. I don't have a lot of money for book buying so I tend to do online market research surveys and select book voucher cards as my payment. I've noticed, especially in the last few years, that I can go down to Whitcoulls to buy a book and leave empty handed due to there being nothing there I want to read. It was quite good when it became possible to use Whitcoulls cards at Borders as they at least have a slightly better selection.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Thomas Beagle,

    Dear James Butler. You may think you want to read The Sparrow but, trust me, you don’t. Yes, thank you, the therapy helped and I now feel a lot better.

    Too late :-) I thought it was pretty good, although perhaps not up to the hype I had heard/read about it; and I did keep my hands in my pockets for a few days afterwards.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I spent over a hundred bucks between Whitcoulls and Borders just last week-for newly released and less popular fantasy books, independent stores just don't cut it unless I already know what I'm after and put an order in six weeks in advance (which is unworkable given how fast I read and how often I like to try out new authors.) I buy 1-3 books per week, split evenly between Whitcoulls/Borders and my local second hand bookstore. I have yet to buy an e-reader, although I've certainly looked into it.

    So yeah, I'm a wee bit upset about this.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Dawson, in reply to Richard Derham,

    so I tend to do online market research surveys and select book voucher cards as my payment

    That is both a fantastic plan I may have to emulate, and something I'm going to taunt my market research colleagues with.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 196 posts Report Reply

  • Fergus Barrowman,

    It's to soon to predict, but my hope is that the NZ operation can quickly be cut free from Australia and put back on a sound footing with minimal closures and cuts.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2009 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to James Butler,

    Too late :-) I thought it was pretty good

    I thought The Sparrow and Children of God are both excellent books, but (avoiding spoilers) I now recommend them with the caveat that they may be extremely triggering for survivors of rape/sexual abuse and domestic violence. after unwittingly loaning my copy to a friend whose abuse I was not aware of.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Fergus Barrowman,

    + 1, Fergus. As I said, whatever I think of Whitcoulls as a bookseller I'd rather not see anyone put out of work. And I know you might not feel comfortable talking about it, but I can't imagine any Anzac publisher would look at the prospect of two major chains going down the crapper without deep unease.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Patrick,

    When Borders first opened in Christchurch, it had a fantastic science fiction selection - I could have walked in and picked out more than 20 books I really really wanted. I get the feeling from regular visits to Borders that its specialist selection may have gone downhill a little since the Whitcoulls acquisition - certainly, there isn't the "Wow look at the number of books that I could just take home with me RIGHT NOW" feeling that it used to have.

    I can't remember the last time I bought a book for myself from Whitcoulls - even kids books I'll go to the Children's Bookshop for, where you have knowledgeable and passionate staff who know what they're talking about. I've bought stuff from Borders more often, and their prices seemed to be better than Whitcoulls.

    Having said all that, I'm concerned at all this - Whitcoulls was apparently 30% of the market, and if it and Borders disappear, we're left with the Warehouse and Paper Plus / Take Note, where the selection is even worse.

    Rangiora, Te Wai Pounamu • Since Nov 2006 • 231 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    I am less concerned about Whitcoulls (except, of courses, for those who might lose their jobs) than on-campus Bennetts bookshops such as at Waikato Uni and Wintec. They are pretty damn essential.

    My favourite story about the 'patchy' customer serrvice at Whitcoulls was when I went in search of a copy or two of Dickens' Little Dorrit. The response from the gormless youth behind the counter: Who is he? Is he a children's writer?

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2217 posts Report Reply

  • Rob S,

    There is no protection for holders of Whitcoulls vouchers. All of those plastic cards loaded up with money and given out as christmas/birthday presents to doted on offspring etc might already be worthless as happened with a recent collapse in the music industry. Submissions in regard of this have been made to the relevant minister as the consumer guarantees act is under review [don't hold your breath] . All funds put into such card schemes should be held in a trust fund or similar so that they can't be wiped out with no recompense. These voucher schemes are a cheap loan to the issuers with no security. I admit they are one way of directing how the money gets spent but an exchange card is currently a better option. I suspect millions of dollars are involved. Sorry for the tangent!

    Since Apr 2010 • 64 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    When I was 16, staff at Whitcombe & Tombs in CHCH encouraged me to open an account.*
    Nearly 2 decades ago, I closed my Whitcoulls account. Their sales had become crap-rotation; ordering a book through them took forever, and they had become less than impressive with the currency of their stock. My experience was only with CHCH, Timaru and Wellington shops.
    The fact that the RED group - and Whitcoulls- was in trouble has been known since late last year. I shall not miss the stores - if indeed, they do go under (and I sincerely hope not, for the staffs' sake) - because I havent bought anything from them
    since about 1993. And I buy a lot of books-

    mainly from secondhand bookdealers; over the net, a few from Amazon & more from the Book Depositry, and from my local (Franz Josef) Take Note. I use the Oamaru Public Library (because I'm frequently that side of the hill)& the Paper Plus there.

    It meant more to me that Pan MacMillan had scarpered to Australia...

    A small note about e-publishing: Digital Publishing NZ is now an entity - it's a co-operative effort by NZSA and the NZ Publishers association (with, worryingly, 'office assistance' - so to speak- from CLL.) In common with a number of other ANZ writers, I'll be interested to see how it goes, but wont be participating to any great extent.

    Now, off to read that Chinese contract and decide whether to sign it-

    *They could recognise a hopelessly addicted bookie from 3 counters away...

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Islander,

    Ears. Perking up.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3112 posts Report Reply

  • jessica scott,

    This seems to have quite a parallel to the fall of the retail-music-selling giants (Tower etc) of the last few years, while the independent sellers are doing better than ever. (That's my impression, at least. Unity always seems to be very busy whenever I go there in Wellington) It seems in both cases there's no middle-market demand- people will either buy online/download/buy from the warehouse etc or enjoy the experience of an independent/specialty store.

    Wellington • Since Mar 2010 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Rachaelking,

    I don't know if anyone knows this, but new books at Borders and Whitcoulls, unless they're on the sale tables, are often 10% more expensive than other shops. eg my last novel was supposed to be $37, but at Whitcoulls & Borders was a whopping $41.

    Since Nov 2009 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    'Simplified Chinese, print only.'

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I thought The Sparrow and Children of God are both excellent books

    I liked The Sparrow, although I think the way the author brushes off the (at times quite startling) similarities between her book and James Blish's A Case of Conscience are unconvincing. I found Children of God to be a bit too dull for my tastes, and I found the way the plot was resolved to be too trite for my tastes. It was too much of a stretch for me to accept as a genuine resolution to the tensions the author had so carefully crafted.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    how do you browse on-line? Some of my best purchases -- and longest-lasting literary romances -- were a result of going into a store looking for one book, and stumbling (in one case literally) over another that I'd not even heard of.

    "People who bought this book also liked...." has worked for me on Amazon with surprising frequency. Although I like to confuse their AI by buying presents for my family with the wide and varied taste that implies, including my two young nieces and nephews. People who bought Rob Zombie's Hellbilly Deluxe also liked the Thomas the Tank Engine Big Loader, apparently. Your robot mind is boggled, Amazonbot.

    Also, the silver lining in the super city is the new library system. And keyword searching can often throw up some enjoyably surprising results. Did you know Spike Milligan wrote a Frankenstein pastiche? Me neither 'til just before Christmas.

    If I borrow a library book, and like it, I'll usually order a copy for my permanent home library at some point down the track.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2292 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I had a minor suspension-of-disbelief problem with The Sparrow (and I'm pretty happy with a lot of very dubious SF) - while Russell is quite skilful with her depictions of the technology of the expedition, I think the organisation ("Sure, we'll fund an expedition to another star! And why don't we crew it with all your best friends!") was compromised to serve a plot point.

    Also, while her primary point about clashing cultures was well put, I think she was trying to say something deep about God as well - which I completely failed to comprehend. Perhaps I've lost the ability since I gave up my Christian card.

    I'm just starting on Children Of God, and I'm not yet through the contrived-recap-for-people-who-didn't-read-the-first-book, a literary technique for which I have zero tolerance.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    "People who bought this book also liked...." has worked for me on Amazon with surprising frequency.

    Top 'also liked' for Not Safe For Work? xkcd. Works for me.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4285 posts Report Reply

  • Cushla McKinney,

    Here in Dunedin we don't have Borders, and the Whitcoulls has a disappointingly small, mainstream stock list (especially in SF, as others have also commented). Luckily for us we have the University Book Shop which stocks or can get just about anything. Generally, though, I tend to get most of my books via Amazon or ABE (generally as presents for others). The one thing shopping on line doesn't give you, though, is the pleasure of just browsing.

    One thing I did like about Borders (at least as they worked in the US) is the ability to just sit and read, but you don't need a good chain store for that. Personally I don't think anything can beat a good second hand book shop (I make a pilgrimage to Scribes every weekend). Not only is there the possibility of randomly stumbling over something fascinating, nothing can beat the thrill of finding that one book you've been awaiting for ages. Plus my 2 year old can sit and read to herself happily too without my having to worry about being glared at by staff concerned about damage to their spotless stock. I think if Whitcoulls wants to survive, it needs to recreate itself as a more eclectic, friendly type of shop rather than a plastic popular-fiction chain store.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Shit, just heard on Nat Radio that various Borders + Whitcoulls stores are refusing to honour their vouchers/ gift tokens. Hey, guy, pissing on people whose good will and support you desperately need right about now is beyond stupid.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Thanks for acting so swiftly with this post, Craig. You're a trooper.

    My brief dabble in independent book publishing certainly didn't leave me with a good impression of Whitcoulls. When Great New Zealand Argument launched, Whitcoulls' copies hadn't left the Warehouse and later we started getting direct sales requests from regional branches because they couldn't get the books from their own head office. It was absurd.

    Unity, on the other hand, were great.

    I wonder what the total exposure on vouchers is. Saying "we can't redeem vouchers until things are sorted out" would have been better than trying to force people to spend cash on top to redeem them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17938 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I wonder what the total exposure on vouchers is. Saying “we can’t redeem vouchers until things are sorted out” would have been better than trying to force people to spend cash on top to redeem them.

    Indeed - and while it would still piss me off if I was trying to redeem my Christmas book tokens it would be less of a #epicPRFUBAR that what seems to be going down. FFS, if they were trying to destroy public good-will wouldn't it have been more efficient to just punch in the face everyone who comes through the door?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11614 posts Report Reply

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