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Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption
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Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  78 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
Over the past half-century, bookselling, like many retail industries, has evolved from an arena dominated by independent bookstores to one in which chain stores have significant market share. And as in other areas of retail, this transformation has often been a less-than-smooth process. This has been especially pronounced in bookselling, argues Laura J. Miller, because mor ...more
Paperback, 328 pages
Published May 15th 2007 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 2006)
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Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Warning: Long Review. While it took me a while to finish, this carefully crafted study of the bookselling business in America was great. On a reading scale, I would give it four stars, but the fifth star is because I think it is an important book to read.
Essentially this book is about the struggle between the independent vs. the chains. I work at an independent book store. Prior to working at an independent book store, I shopped at whatever place would give me the best discount, because gettin
Chad Post
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
This can be a bit thick with academic phrasings and meanderings, but generally speaking, it's a nice overview of the history of bookselling in America, and the complicated conflicts between "independent" bookstores and the chains. In fact, the reach of this book is a bit broader than that, examining paradoxical situation of the average contemporary consumer, who wants the local, community-oriented (book)store and the uber-convenience and low-prices of the soulless big box. As a believer that boo ...more
Aug 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Part of my growing collection of books about bookselling. Can't help it, my brain spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about independent bookstores: how to improve, why people buy what they buy, how to compete against the chains, what to read, what to stock, how to display it, the next innovation, creating a legacy, how to turn a (small) profit...
The research and sociology are first rate. Reading about the rise of the chains, B&N and Borders, might seem masochistic, but it simply re
Sharon K.
quite excited to get this book in the mail today!
Dawn Betts-Green (Dinosaur in the Library)
2 stars not for actual content. Though it was very dry and academic, it was really good for what it was. Just not what I thought it would be.
Jun 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Nuanced, balanced study of bookseller attitudes toward capitalism, the rise of the big chains, and the politics of consumption, paired with a cogent history of all three as they relate to the business of bookselling in the U.S. Miller is very good at unpacking the complexities and contradictions of these topics, and the issues she delves into are highly relevant for libraries, readers, authors, and anyone involved in the book business (or interested in consumer politics) in any way. Miller's wri ...more
Megan Bell
Jun 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
There is a lot of valuable information in this scholarly treatise on bookselling, capitalism, and consumerism, but it's definitely not written for laymen or booksellers, for that matter. A difficult read that I would love to see updated and made more accessible. On a side note, I don't appreciate the manner in which the author sometimes casts doubt on her sources--it seems disrespectful. That said, I'm glad the book exists!
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: m
This book came out in 2006 so the author's predictions and theories should be taken with a grain of salt. However, she gives a very comprehensive of the history of bookselling so I recommend it on that basis alone. About thirty pages of it are actually notes and citations so it's not as long as it seems and she includes a really handy timeline of the major changes in the bookselling world.
Nov 04, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, business, publishing
The book is starting to feel a little dated. There is some good research and strong historical narrative on the mix of capitalism and moral justification that booksellers feel makes their business more than just a business, but the book was written before the demise of Borders and the increasing importance of Amazon.
May 06, 2009 rated it liked it
A very academic look at the changing consumer culture of bookstores and their social meaning, particular the conflict between the emergence of chain stores like Barnes and Nobles and locally owned independents.
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book, it changed the way I looked at bookstores and the business of bookselling. The ways and means of capitalism can be so disturbing yet as Americans we participate in this system daily. Fascinating.
Surfing Moose
A bit too academic (read dry) for my tastes. A very interesting subject though... (Can't finish that thought for some reason).
Nov 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
fascinating...and uber depressing for anyone who gives two poops about the book industry and what the death of independent stores would mean for book culture
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
There were moments that seemed repetitive, but overall this is a fascinating study.
Mar 21, 2010 added it
Shelves: 2010
Interesting but already outdated. The best stuff is about inventory, which makes me wonder what Laura Miller thinks about ebooks. (Didn't she write something for
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Really useful look at booksellers through history and the rise of the big box stores like Borders and Amazon. Excellent research material for anyone looking into the commodity culture of books.
Jul 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Why is the act of buying books somehow immune to charges of consumerism? This book is really interesting.
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