I paid another visit to Borders yesterday. Unfortunately it was another short one - a long, leisurely browse is impossible when Ekath (my two-year-old) is around.
The day before I'd been told by someone who works for a book distributor that a lot of stock hadn't arrived in time for the opening on the 19th. Lo and behold, when I went in yesterday, there were several Joan Aikens on the shelf, including The WItch of Clattering Shaws (the latest and last in the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series). Had I simply missed them the last time or had they come in in the meantime? Whatever the case, I got myself two titles: The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (to replace a copy that appears to have gone since I moved from USJ to Ampang) and Midwinter Nightingale, the penultimate book of the series. (I'm going to wait til Clattering Shaws comes out in paperback. I can't afford the hardback - RM68!!!)
I was at the new Borders store (in Kuala Lumpur) this afternoon. Had a quick look-round. No Joan Aiken! I'm hooked on her Wolves of Willoughby Chase series at the moment and so it's the first thing I looked for. I spoke to someone who used to work with the merchandiser and he said, "______ has probably never heard of Aiken." All I can say is: "B***** H***!"
However, I found Elizabeth Bowen in the Fiction section so it's not all bad.
Apart from that ... well, it's big and it's cold; there's lots of space and lots of light. It's definitely not charming (Eyeris and Erna say it reminds them of Popular!), but then which big chain is? I don't think I'll be hanging out there much - especially since I never go to Berjaya Times Square anyway. For now, at least, I'm sticking to Kino.
I do want to spend more time looking at the books though. The children's section is huge so it should have a good selection. Should. No Aiken though, hmmph.
One of the people from the head office was talking about how the stores have been greeted with open arms in places like New Zealan and Puerto Rico. People see Borders as a sign that civilisation has arrived at their cities! Well, that's really nothing to do with books though, is it? It's to do with size and money and branding. I'm sure these people would have been just as happy to see the launch of a Chanel boutique on their main street! And I bet most fans of Starbucks will also love Borders.
Today, the BOOKS section at the Guardian Unlimited website features a story on independent bookshops. In this day of Borders, Kinokuniya and MPH, most of us are used to large chains that serve coffee and cheesecake, and have staff guilty of shelving Stephen Hawking under OCCULT.
We've all had scary experiences at big book chains. Ask for a book or an author and, very often, you're treated like you're speaking some obscure Eastern European dialect or quoting from a thesis on astro physics! I must say that this happens less at Kinokuniya, KLCC in Kuala Lumpur. Well, at least the people who work in the children's book department seem to be making more effort to know what they're selling. However, I did overhear one of them telling a customer that Malaysian Children's Favourite Stories is for toddlers: Wrong!!!