If you're looking for tea, you're in luck
I'm vexed to have sent this out with Charlotte Gray's name misspelled. It's fixed now. Sorry, Charlotte!
I worked for Indigo for a long time as a part time worker JUST for the love of books. The pay was laughable. What this new direction is doing to the store is truly a tragedy in the bookstore landscape. Plainly put: it is short sighted and sucks large. Getting rid of the computers was possibly one of the stupidest moves made by Indigo (and there have been plenty of them recently)
You're right, staff are resisting but I have been told by coworkers who still work there that those who don't "fall in line" are suddenly faced with criticism and comments from higher ups about their work etc.
Indigo has certainly changed and definitely not for the better. Good thing Edmonton has at least two indie bookstores and a couple of good used bookstores. I used to go to Indigo strictly for the large selection of books, even after I left there. Now? the likelihood is they won't have what I want and their website and app are ridiculously clunky. I can't be bothered - if I wanted to go to a department store, I would hit up the Bay.
The place begins to look like the Kresges and Metropolitans Department stores that used to anchor now desolate city centres.
As a recently retired Chief Librarian your visit to Indigo/ Chapters had me howling... in frustration. A visit to your public library, especially in Ottawa would have satisfied all your reading needs and with staff that are experts in readers' advisory not to mention a state of the art catalogue that would allow you to select your books/ebooks/audio books from home free of charge. Public libraries in many large cities and smaller, forward looking municipalities (County of Wellington) kick ass when it comes to providing reading material to the masses. What libraries do lack are champions. In Ontario the provincial government froze the household grants public libraries received starting in 1994 and the Ford government gutted the inter-library loan programme and with Bill 23 will hurt libraries again by monkeying with much needed development charges that library systems also rely on. By all means avoid the kitsch, visit your local independent bookstore but remember who brung ya to the dance...your public library.
Superb read, Paul! love the sardonic wit and substantive points you make. My own 2 cents: Second-hand book stores like Black Squirrel in Ottawa, have also upped their game - without ‘stuff’. When I want new book orders, I use them, not Chapters.
Wonderful narration with a fantastic and witty style. Fun!
After visiting the new Indigo, I already miss the Rideau Chapters. I was in and out in minutes while at Chapters I would stay for ages browsing the bookshelves.
For what it's worth, Barnes and Noble is doing the exact opposite of Indigo. They now have a 'director of books.' I interviewed here recently, in case you're interested in listening: https://thebibliofile.substack.com/p/shannon-devito-on-her-role-as-director#details
Jesus H. Christ.
Paul, it's going to take you a few days to pry your tongue out of your cheek.
Definitely time to go long on independent book stores. You'd get the impression, judging from Indigo's pull-back from books, that the book trade got the same ass-kicking as newspapers and magazines in the last two decades. But that's not true (and maybe there's a lesson here for the magazine and newspaper industry.) Nor have online sales come to dominate the business so much that book sellers can't make a go of it. Once a person is in a book store, impulse and sales staff advice takes over. So the trick is to get people into book stores. I've been in independent bookstores from Montreal to Windsor in the last six weeks and have seen independents doing very well. Why? Because their managers and sales staff know books. They tailor the stock to the market: Perfect Books, in the belly of the Ottawa beast and adjacent to the law courts, is big on political books, quality non-fiction and good fiction. Other stores in places like Picton -- where the independent store pulls people in on Saturdays with... wait for it... newspapers, the fare is toward reading for pleasure. Indigo has no flexibility, its staff don't know books, and now it has clearly signalled it sees books only as lifestyle accessories. It wants consumer-age women customers, which means no researched non-fiction, political or military history, on the false presumption that these topics don't interest a sufficient number of women. Fine. Let book sellers sell books.
I had the pleasure of attending your release/reading of The Longer I'm Prime Minister at Pages in Kensington, a great bookstore. Since then, another bookstore has opened in Calgary that would be worth a visit the next time you're in town. It's The Next Page and is in an older building in Inglewood. Great high shelves with rolling ladders to get to the top and a used section down in the basement.
I miss real bookstores, also. I have taken my custom and my habit of buying books to AbeBooks , a wonderfully accessible website that with a few strokes turns up what I am looking for, often at a surprisingly modest price. Canada Post delivers in due course. In the same lamentable vein of changing tastes and habits, I have been trying to donate a late friend's library to a First Nation's school. Thinking that a thousand books (40 boxes) mostly in English, on Canadian politics and history would be an invaluable asset to those without access to a good library, I have been dismayed at the lack of interest. What to do?
Well done. Good job Paul. These days, there is so much content out there - we tend to skim. But your prose is a pleasure to take in, word by word. Also fans of Books on Beechwood.
- Yes, I actually say "cannabis"; started when it was pointed out it was called "Mary-hee-wanna" to associate it with Mexicans, as an insult - to them and cannabis both, somehow. Also, many of the old names like "weed" just don't apply to this 21st century of vaporizing tiny quantities of oils and concentrates. Try to keep up, Paul.
- "Pages on Kensington" hit me with a Mack Truck blow of nostalgia. Beside the Plaza Theatre, which has now been a classic-movie repertory house longer than it was the neighbourhood theatre I biked to see "Journey to the Seventh Planet" at in the 60s, Pages has just as long a history. Before that space was a bookstore, it was a little beloved library for Kensington and Parkdale...the last one at which I had to manually fill out the book title, author, and number on a library form with pencil, to take out - the microfilm machines were 1969. It has hung on when all other stores perished, generally circling the drain.
- Hadn't been in years because I retired to Vancouver, where I'm thrilled that White Dwarf books is going strong, just as the Sentry Box in Calgary is perhaps the continent's finest supply of SF/Fantasy titles. And any trip to Victoria will stun you with the profusion of independent used-and-new book stores. (Four of them cut a deal with Amazon that gave them a huge cash infusion.)
- No article about bookstores and their prospective doom should omit the fun fact, that electronic books grew and grew - to about 20% of the market - and stopped. And their biggest fans are not the young, but the old people who need font-size control.
- Speaking of the sixties, that's when I first heard that books would surely be killed by new technology. Then, it was my 19" B&W with rabbit ears.
Thank God for Librairie de soleil. They have books and not stuff we don’t need. Disappointed with the store.
I agree with another writer above there is a certain resemblance to the Bay, more particularly, the basement floor, when department stores had basements. This article explains why there was no display of the Giller prize winners in my local Chapters in Chinook Mall when I was in there in search of a birthday card. And...shout out to my favourite bookstore in Calgary - Shelf Life Books, where they only sell goods made of paper and a small rack of collectable literary pins.
Sheer madness! Let's hear it for Perfect Books and its traditional stock (i.e. books) and helpful staff with excellent and informed recommendations.