Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Okay, My Brain's Really Tired--Dammit!

Just accidentally erased the rest of my post--d'oh! I'll try to recreate it, but of course it won't be as brilliant as the original (ahem).

There's been an interesting discussion over at Asymmetrical Information about bias in bookstore displays. One thing I'd like to reiterate here: One doesn't need to subscribe to any conservative conspiracy theory to notice and find objectionable the ideological imbalance evident in many bookstore displays of political titles. I don't think there's some sinister plot afoot to influence consumer politics and nudge them ever further left; what does disturb me, though, is that for the people who typically arrange such displays (usually no higher than assistant manager types, sometimes just a general employee--what we're talking about here is not the freestanding cardboard display units sent by publishers for new releases that are expected to be a big hit, but display tables created by whoever happens to be in charge of a section--I worked in both independent and chain bookstores for seven-odd years, so I do know somewhat whereof I speak) it doesn't seem to occur to them that they might want to choose titles that represent a range of ideological perspectives. This not only makes good business sense--those who share one perspective might want to check out the opposition, if only to muster counterarguments, while others might buy books to help bolster their own positions--it also represents the kind of intellectual integrity that I expect from those in an industry that at least partially claims to promote thoughtful inquiry and the broadening of horizons. Or maybe I'm just naive. But check out the comments on Jane Galt's blog and make up your own mind.

Isn't "range of perspectives" itself a subjective assessment?

At the B&N near me, it seems the bookshop clerks expect that someone interested in a topic wants to browse similarly oriented titles. Or perhaps not all of them have thought things through, one way or another.

Re: the comments at Jane Galt's blog, it's possible (absolutely) that some bookselling companies have a bias re: what they put out on tables versus what sits meekly on shelves in a section.

Best of luck with your diss deadline.
Went to Barnes & Noble last week and the front window was still completely filled with Bubba's book. I went inside, and the new release table was stacked with Bubba's book. The second table was full of Bush is Evil, Bush is Dumb, Bush is Hitler books. I did see one copy of the "Michael Moore is a Big Dumb White Guy" book on that table, but it looked like someone put it there by mistake. The day Ann Coulter's book came out last year, they put the display way in the back and you had to really search to find it.

I don't think it's a corporate policy, because other Barnes & Noble locations I've been to don't always seem to be so slanted, and will have a nice range of political views on display. It's just this one that's staffed with butch lesbians and limp-wristed socialists that has the problem.
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