Steven Brust’s Iorich comes out today. I would like to buy a copy. I’ve long been in the habit of tracking forthcoming books with a (private) Amazon wish list, then lumping together the ones that come out around the same time into one purchase, thus scoring big discounts and free shipping. However, this also leads to a nasty habit of buying books I don’t really need just to hit the $25 free shipping threshold. Since by now I own hundreds of books I haven’t read yet — I’m also a binge shopper at used book stores — I’m trying to scale back this year. There are no other books coming out this month that I must have immediately, so I thought I’d just pick up Iorich at a local bookstore. Where I live, that means shopping at Hastings (we have two) or Barnes & Noble. (Target and Wal-mart might work for mega-bestsellers, but not for most of the authors I follow.)
Hastings, south side
First stop, the Hastings closer to campus. I’m on my lunch break, and for once the book manager has already shelved all the new releases. (He’s often the only one working the book section, and if he gets a phone call, the shelving might not get done until dinnertime.) However, there’s no Iorich on the new release table or the SF shelf. I know what that means — Hastings and I have done this dance before — but I’m acquainted with the book manager, and when he says hi, I pause and ask him about the book. He looks it up, says “hmm,” and we learn that there’s one copy in transit and two more on backorder. When it does arrive, it will not be discounted, even though Jhegaala was heavily discounted in this store when it came out last year.
Now, there are two things you have to know about Hastings’ inventory system. The first is that “in transit” is a vague term. It’s not like a UPS package that gets tracked every time the truck stops. The book could arrive this afternoon or two weeks from now. There’s no way of knowing. The second is that Hastings, unlike every other bookseller I have ever encountered, assigns an internal release date rather than using the publishers’ — and it’s the last day of the month. Therefore I know — and you know, and anyone else who’s looked at Amazon or a publisher’s catalog knows — that Iorich is out today, but as far as Hastings’ computer is concerned, it will be released January 31. Even though the book is on the truck already. And even though all the really big bestsellers released today are indeed on the new release table, right on time.
I don’t get it either.
Barnes & Noble
They do have at least one copy — in a box in the back, buried under a number of other boxes, which they don’t plan to unpack today. (It’s about 5:45.) Would I like them to call me when they locate the book?
I would not. After all, maybe I’ll get lucky at the other Hastings…
Hastings, north side
Second verse, same as the first. At least the person at the book counter was friendly; for some reason, I usually get very grumpy people at this store.
Discounted to $16.49 and shipping immediately. Even if I suck it up and pay the $3.99 for shipping rather than finding another random book to buy, I’m still saving $5 — and another trip to Barnes & Noble later this week.
I have an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket, so I’ll give you three guesses what happened next.
To Sum Up
That’s why I stopped shopping locally in the first place. If I’m looking for a romance paperback, I can usually find it. Anything else, especially a new release, and it’s going to be a hassle: they don’t have it, or they don’t know whether they have it, and half the time I get a clerk who’s incapable of looking it up, even if I’ve spelled the author’s full name and provided an ISBN. Honestly!