Bookstore visit (or “Where do you keep the books for teens?”)
I’m an avid reader of YA and the Teen section is always the first spot I stop whenever I’m in a bookstore. Upon entering my local big box bookstore one afternoon last week, I made a beeline to the back of the store (as usual), where the Teen section is located adjacent to, but separate from the Children’s section. I noticed that the children’s books were physically separated from the teen books (and the rest of the store) by strategically placed bookshelves, coloured carpeting, a large, colourful sign. The Teen section looked quite ordinary by comparison and blended in with the rest of the store (save for the prominent display of Twilight movie merchandise).
This is an interesting and relatively recent development in the bookselling world. Not so long ago, most bookstores housed the children’s and teen titles together. It’s only in the last few years that the teen books have migrated out of the children’s area to form a separate section of their own. The new space undoubtedly makes teen titles more accessible to teenage readers, especially those who might be turned off by the thought of getting their books in the Children’s section. There’s also the issue of space—the volume of publishing for teens has increased significantly in recent years (thank you, Harry Potter). Bookstores have likely had to reconfigure their floor plans to accommodate the growth. Space did appear to be an issue at this particular store. While it seemed that a conscious effort had been made to separate the teen and children’s books, remaindered titles were shelved together in the Kids’ Bargain Books section within the Children’s area. This might pose a barrier to teenage customers seeking titles which are not actively being marketed to them.
As I continued to scope out the section, I noticed that a disproportionate number of books appeared to be intended for teenage girls and that hot pink was the cover colour of choice. I couldn’t help but wonder if this would deter the self-conscious teenage male. Certainly the teenage boys I know wouldn’t want to be seen hunting for a book among a sea of pink. And as I browsed the shelves I noticed there was something missing. “Where’s the non-fiction?” I asked. The Teen section only housed fiction. Customers looking for teen non-fiction have to venture into the Children’s section.
Interestingly, only three of the customers I encountered during my visit appeared to be teenagers. I eavesdropped as two girls wearing high school uniforms discussed which Gossip Girl titles were missing from their collections. The third was a teen boy who I guessed to be about fourteen-years old. He looked unenthused as he followed his mother through the section as she selected possible titles for his novel study assignment. The rest of the customers I came across were in their mid-twenties or older. I guess I’m not the only grownup hanging out in the Teen section!