Incentivize Stores to Carry What You Want

Buy the Stuff You Want

January 11, 2023

A little over a year ago John Lovell (known for founding the Warrior Poet Society) posted a video which he filmed inside a Barnes and Noble bookstore. In it he pointed out the store’s lack of worthwhile books and the abundance of worthless books. The history section only spanned a few shelves and the classics section was microscopic while the manga section was massive and there was no shortage of books for hippie crystal chicks and plenty of Harry Potter merchandise for people who still think it is 2010. He then went outside (or more likely was kicked outside) and explained that he’d make sure to stock his home library with worthwhile books because pretty soon they’ll be impossible to find in bookstores.

I recently found myself with some time to kill near my local Barnes and Noble so I decided to take a look at what was on the shelves and I happened to stumble upon John Lovell’s book. I realized I needed to buy it right then and there, and I’ll explain why.

Did I buy it then and there because I was interested in reading The Warrior Poet Way: A Guide to Living Free and Dying Well? Obviously I was, but not interested enough to go out of my way to buy it. Did I buy it then and there because Barnes and Noble was selling it for a good price? No, I’m sure I could have found a better price for it somewhere else. Did I buy it then and there because it was an opportunity to do so in a physical store rather than online? I guess that’s a part of the reason, but if I had found it at a store where it was less out of place I probably would have passed it by and considered going back to buy it at a later date. I bought it then and there because it was in a Barnes and Noble.

John Lovell and I are similar because both of us struggle to find things we want to read at Barnes and Noble (and other physical bookstores). Last month I went there hoping to find a copy of Michael Easter’s new book, he is a completely uncontroversial author and both of his books have been national bestsellers so surely my local Barnes and Noble would have a copy of his book? Nope. When Lovell went to his local Barnes and Noble he thought they’d surely have a copy of The Call of the Wild, but they didn’t. Instead the shelves of Barnes and Noble are filled with modern books on racism and others by people like Rachel Maddow and Hillary Clinton, books that John Lovell and I have no interest in reading let alone buying.

It is easy to blame wokeness for this and it is even easier to vow never again to set foot in that store, and I do think that corporate wokeness is a factor in why there are a lot of books in Barnes and Noble with a rainbow flag but I don’t think that the Barnes and Noble corporation has been completely taken over by the woke cult, there is something much simpler to blame here.

My local Barnes and Noble has a table full of Jordan Peterson books. The woke crowd is no fan of Jordan Peterson, why would the “woke bookstore chain” support Jordan Peterson’s “far-right ideology” by keeping dozens of copies of his books in stock? The only logical answer is that Barnes and Noble is not a political activist organization trying to make you gay, it is instead a business that is trying to make money. Jordan Peterson’s books are incredibly popular, that’s easy money for a bookstore, a business that makes money by selling books would be making a mistake if they didn’t make sure they had a healthy supply of Jordan Peterson’s books in stock.

Woke books sell fairly well because today’s university system is teaching the demographic of people most likely to buy books that they should be reading woke books. Books by political figures like Rachel Maddow, Hillary Clinton, and even Ted Cruz sell well because Covid forced a lot of people to have to work from home and those people needed to fill their bookshelves with books to make them look smart in Zoom meetings, so they bought a bunch of books by popular political figures without realizing that nobody actually reads those books.1 Barnes and Noble tries to stock their shelves with books that sell well, that’s why they carry woke books and Obama books but also Jordan Peterson books. It is simple supply and demand, or I guess just demand. If there is no demand for a book why would Barnes and Noble supply it?

Now let’s get back to why I chose to buy John Lovell’s book at Barnes and Noble. I want Barnes and Noble to carry books like that, but if those books don’t sell why would they carry them? If I, and everyone else who follow people like John Lovell, saw John Lovell’s book at Barnes and Noble but chose to buy it elsewhere because we didn’t want to support a woke company, Barnes and Noble would notice that book collecting dust on their shelf and would replace it with some Bernie Sanders book that might actually sell. If you want stores to carry a certain type of product then you have to be willing to buy that product from them when they have it in stock.

Boycotts are stupid in the context of entire stores rather than single products, you can’t convince a store to carry the stuff you want to buy by refusing to shop there. Lovell was smart in his bookstore video. He didn’t do the click-baity thing and call for a boycott of Barnes and Noble, he didn’t even name the store Barnes and Noble. He simply encouraged people to buy good books when and where they could. He thinks that there will come a day when we won’t be able to do that, but if we make it an effort to buy good books from the places we are surprised to see them then maybe we can postpone or even prevent that day.

It isn’t healthy to sit around and complain about all the things in the culture you don’t like. You have to be a part of the change in the culture that you want to see, buying good books is one way to do that, and even if you don’t end up having an impact on anything by doing it you’d at least have some good books to read.

1 - If you want proof that nobody reads those books go to your closest thrift store and look at the book section, those are always in the best condition.