Ah, bookstores: the smell of the paper, the silence of the browsers… there's nothing quite like it. Working in a bookstore has much in common with other types of retail jobs — mainly the hours, sometimes the uniform, occasionally the weird questions from customers — but being a bookstore employee allows passion to meet paycheck in an ideal way. You already know about books, and get paid to talk about them and move them around. What could be better?
I have only ever worked in bookstores. How did I achieve this feat, you ask? A combination of pure luck, chance, and then there was that one time that I couldn't get a paid job in a bookstore, so I volunteered in one instead. If you too boast a book-selling stint on your resume, past or present: Welcome, friend. We have much to discuss.
When you first got your job, I bet you were excited. I know I couldn't wait to get my hands on the crisp, fresh titles and learn where they should all be placed. The bookstore rookie knows little of what awaits her, but soon, a new world of possibilities opens up.
First on the newbie agenda, a small reality check:
You're probably not as well-read as you think
No matter how big a bibliophile you are, early in your employment, you'll realize the sum of your knowledge is a mere speck in the bookiverse. People will ask you about books you don't know, but then they'll also sometimes ask about ones you have, hence…
You'll learn the beauty of book banter
An unexpected chat with a customer about a book you've both read beats any book club, not to mention it's a great way to bond with colleagues — provided things don’t get too heated.
You get strangely possessive over the books
There's little worse than finding stains, fingerprints, or ripped and creased pages, and not just because it puts people off buying the book, but because when it comes down to it…
It’s like having your own personal library
Each time new stock comes in, it kind of feels like you're organizing your own collection. Except taking things home without paying will get you fired.
You've experienced the untold amounts of dust that gather on bookshelves
"I swear I cleaned this last week," you choke, flapping at the clouds before you.
You've obessed over how the stock is categorized
And of course, silently getting annoyed by those who don't follow the system. But it's so clear!
You've searched through the shelves when it's quiet
Keeping on top of what's in stock is essential. It's also sometimes important to take a quick peek inside — you know, for research, for the customers. Just be careful not to bend the spine!
You've struck up banter with staff in other bookstores
Particularly if this other bookstore has attractive staff. Perhaps one of the few times, "The categorization system in here is incredible," might be a plausible opening line. Mind you…
Shopping for books elsewhere feels like betrayal
And if you get discount in your own store, it doesn't really make sense, which is why…
You give everyone know know books as gifts, no matter the occasion
Well, you have to make the most of it! You can shop while you work and skip the stress of crowds and queues during holiday season. Whether the recipient appreciates it or not is another matter. Speaking of gifts…
You know the endless joy of freebies you actually want
Yes to bookmarks, stickers, tote bags, t-shirts. ALL OF THE THINGS. And of course…
You are privy to the special, secret world of proof copies
Because there's nothing like the satisfaction of saying, "Oh yeah, I read that months ago," when a new release officially publishes. It feels like you're part of a special secret book gang.
Ultimate bonus: book signings edition
They say never meet your idols. Depending on where you work maybe you will, and you will probably get to serve them drinks. And of course:
Your book collection will expand even more
Because sometimes, seeing that tempting title day in, day out will just get too much. You can also enjoy the sneaky first choice of sale items and maybe even wrangle a free book here and there.
Such are the joys of working in a bookstore.
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