The wonderful thing about the internet is that if there is a specific book or movie you are looking for, you can almost certainly buy it with a few quick searches, a few clicks of the mouse, and have it delivered right to your door. However, I don’t find internet shopping to be very browser (hehe) friendly, because there is JUST SO MUCH STUFF! And you never know if it’s going to be any good or not. Reviews can be helpful when you’ve narrowed down your selections, but not always. Having more of a selection is not always a good thing – sometimes more is just more, not better.
Enter the boutique store. This is a store that either due to physical size or philosophical reasons stocks merchandise that has been carefully curated. That means actual people are going through products and selecting those they love and believe in, and only selling those. Now, by “boutique,” I don’t necessarily mean high-end pricing, but it is a fact that it is cheaper to just sell anything and everything than it is to spend time (that old saying about time being money is true, especially when it comes to spending employee time) reviewing products, testing them with their children, getting opinions, and then deciding whether or not to stock it. So if you utilize boutique stores, please do not take advantage of the time and money they put into choosing products and then go and buy it cheaper from a big box store. This will only hasten the decline of specialty stores. By the way, if you think the big box stores are going to keep their low prices when all the other stores start to fold, I think you are in for a disappointment. (Also as an aside, some studies have found that the more choices we have, the less happy we are. See here, for example.)
So, now that we’ve sorted out the economy, what does this have to do with you, dear reader? Specialty book stores or catalogs are a great place to find new things to read. Because they have a limited, high-graded selection, when you try a new book or author, the odds of it being good are very high. I think they’re also a great place to find gifts for your own or someone else’s children, especially since they often have age categories to help you narrow it down. So instead of guessing, you’re getting a recommendation from a company that specializes in providing these types of recommendations, and they will help guide you towards an age appropriate selection.
I’m not trying to say that all big box stores are bad, I certainly use them myself, but I think there is and should be a place for specialty stores as well. Plus, the browsing and dithering experience is out of this world. Send me a catalog of any of these stores, and I could happily ogle it for hours, bookmarking every page as I find something new I desperately need.
Here are some of my favorite specialty bookstores:
Chinaberry: This is probably the best selection of children’s books I’ve seen, particularly for the baby/toddler crowd. They also sell eco-friendly toys, and beautiful and fun Christmas decorations, amongst other things.
Scholastic: I have such happy memories of reading through the scholastic catalog as a child, and ending up with a pile of new books to devour. Now, of course, they’re online as well, but they still provide good reviews and age guides for books.
Bas Bleu: Part of their slogan is “Champion of the odd little book,” which I completely love. Their website is pretty barebones (their catalog is much better), but they have a wonderful selection of mysteries and novels, as well as some really fun gift ideas.
And because I can’t resist:
ThinkGeek: If you have nerds on your shopping list this Christmas, you must check out this store. I buy something from them almost every year for my husband and/or brother.
Also, I can’t miss this opportunity for shameless self-promotion:
Do you shop at boutique or specialty stores? What’s your favorite?
*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.