Books on the Nightstand discussion

African-American book sections

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Over on the Constant Reader group, we have been discussing the practice of some book stores using African-American sections to display books. In response, Carlene Brice has established National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give it to Somebody Not Black Month. You can read about it at:

After we started discussing it, she joined in and posted the following note:
Hi All, Thank you so much for having this discussion--that's all I'm trying to do is raise awareness and get some issues to the point of discussion. This country is so crazy when it comes to race it's hard to look at racial issues without feeling a little crazy, oneself. For example, on the one hand, African American sections in bookstores are believed to be helpful to black authors in the sense that they help black readers find our books easily. On the other hand, it puts other readers off and makes it seem like our books are "only" for black readers. I don't mean to dis any practice because I do believe booksellers and publishers are trying to sell books. But I also believe that some conventional wisdom in the publishing industry is based on some old assumptions. We'll see if I'm right.

My Border's store in Ann Arbor has just such a section. I always thought it was an attempt to highlight African-American literature, but it does have the effect of not exposing those books to the casual shopper. Some people in Canada, as well as folks in the northwest U.S. said they had never heard of such a practice. I'm wondering if Michael and Ann can tell us how common it is and what the current thinking behind it is.

message 2: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Barbara, thanks for sharing this. I think it's a great idea that Carlene has.

I can't really answer your question with any authority. Stores have been experimenting with this for decades -- not only for African/American,but also for Gay/Lesbian and Christian fiction. Do you separate those sections as a way of helping readers find them more easily, the way that science fiction,romance and mystery have their own sections? Or do you mix it all in? Each has benefits and drawbacks.

I'd say at this point, it's quite likely that stores have tried it both ways and settled on whatever method has resulted in more book sales.

If the store sells books from that category very well, by creating a dedicated section the store can better track sales and refine the selection based on what the customers want. If, for instance, African-American fiction has its own section, and sales continually increase, the store can bring in more titles. They wouldn't necessarily know that if it was folded into the fiction section. On the same note, if sales are not strong enough to warrant enough books to fill a section, they can/will be folded into the general fiction section. It's amazing how computerized inventory and data analysis and physical shelf space can often impact how things are merchandised on the sales floor.

I hope that helps a little bit. Sorry I can't be more clear. Just please don't ask me where to shelve that romantic mystery written by the Christian African-American Lesbian!

message 3: by Barbara (new)

Barbara That helps a lot, Ann. I sort of thought it would be connected to whatever worked best for the business. Do you mind if I copy your note to the discussion on CR?

message 4: by Ann (last edited Dec 14, 2008 11:44AM) (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Don't mind at all! Maybe it will bring us some new readers/listeners. Thanks!
Can you post a link to the discussion? I can't seem to find the thread over at CR.

message 6: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 89 comments I don't like having a lot of different sections in the bookstore. I'm primarily a science fiction reader. However, I've really expanded my horizons since joining GoodReads. I'm finding it very difficult to find books when I visit the bookstore these days because I never know where a book is going to be shelved. Sometimes, I find the same book in more than one section. There is a lot of genre cross-over going on these days and maybe it's time to narrow down the categories rather than expanding them.

message 7: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Sandi, I know exactly what you mean! Hopefully you have a helpful and knowledgeable staff at your bookstore to assist you in finding what you want.

message 8: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 89 comments I wish I had a local independent bookstore. I have to rely on Borders and B&N. Sometimes, their people are helpful, sometimes not. Fortunately, they have those computers that allow you to look up books and it tells you where it's supposed to be shelved. Unfortunately, I don't find a lot of the books I want to read. However, they're far better than my county library system.

back to top