Friday, February 25, 2011

What Booksellers Wish Publishers Knew: Get a Spine!

It's an unfortunate part of the bookselling business that we can't face out every book.  There just isn't enough shelf space.  So we (and our customers) get used to looking at the books' spines.  Grabbing the book you need should be a piece of cake for a numbered series like Junie B. Jones.  Right?


But hold on a second.  

Let's take a closer look at those three red books in the middle:

They're not the same!  That's volume 5, The Yucky Blucky Fruitcake, followed by volume 6, That Meanie Jim's Birthday.  And they're just about the same color, so they're easily confused unless you take the time to look closely.  

Guardians of Ga'hoole provides us with another stellar example:

Again, let's look at that a little more closely:

Volumes 9, 10, AND 11: all the same color.  What was that designer thinking?

And don't even get me started on the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz. 

 These spines all look alike.

That's why we usually shelve them face out:

There.  That's better.  They look like different books this way!  Although it would be a big help to us if these books were numbered, like any other series.  I've had to resort to shelf talkers to tell customers which volume comes first.

Captain Underpants is another series that gives us shelving problems.  Why?  Well, it's not the colors blending together.  Each volume is a different bright color.  And the front cover tells you exactly which volume it is.  So what's the problem?

The spines!  


The volume number is nowhere to be found on those spines.  Would it have been so hard to add a simple digit?

Hope you enjoyed this edition of What Booksellers Wish Publishers Knew. 

What irritates YOU in a bookstore?  Is the layout confusing?  Is it hard to tell where one age level ends and another begins?  Do you have trouble finding the book you want?


  1. I love hearing your perspective. The only thing that bothers me at the bookstore is not having infinite funds!

  2. Ah yes, Katharine! We all have that problem, except when nice people give us gift cards.


  3. It does seem like it would be far easier if they had a prominent, bold volume number, both for libraries and bookstores.

    Of course, when you say, "That's why we usually shelve them face out", you may give a partial explanation. After all, every publisher wishes you would put their books face out.

  4. Excellent point, Ben. Every bookseller knows that face-outs sell. But most bookstores simply don't have that kind of space, and publishers do realize this.

    What we do is face out only the newest fiction and non-fiction on endcaps. After a few months, a book gets moved to an inner shelf where it's probably going to be spine-out for the rest of its shelf life, unless it's Harry Potter or Twilight or Lightning Thief or something equally popular.

    And yes, it would be nice if publishers would include a prominent volume number on the spine. One can always hope!

  5. This was truly a fascinating post! I never really thought much about it, but you are SO right. :-)

  6. Oh, wow, that would irritate me, too! Great post! I went to a bookstore recently and the YA section was hopping. Tons of teens (and me) were stepping on each other's toes because the row was so small. I wish all bookstores had a real YA section, like how some bookstores have a special room or area cordoned off just for children's books. We can dream!

    And thanks for including me in your "You Really Should Read These Blogs" list. I just noticed that. How cool!

  7. You're welcome, Stephanie. And thanks for your comment.

    Too bad you live so far away from West Chester, PA! We have a very large children's and YA section. It's bigger than most specialty stores.


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