I had an interesting experience the other day, yo. (I’ve slipped into the habit of tossing a random “yo” into 6 out of every 7 sentences, btw – get used to it.) You may or may not know that the various channels for my probably obsessive and possibly deranged use of social media include Verla Kay’s Blueboards and my Facebook account. One day, lo, many moons ago, I decided to combine them by creating a FB photo gallery of Blueboarder books.
I populate this album by snapping photos in bookstores, which is fun for several reasons: it gives me another excuse to go visit bookstores; it feels like legitimate market research, because I get a sense of what books show up where and so on; and it feels like a way to help publicize other kidlit authors’ and illustrators’ books, which I want to do because I would like to be a contributing member of that community. But this week at a Barnes & Noble location I was asked to cease and desist, which irritated the crap out of me. I had some issues with the way I was asked to stop, but the more important (and interesting) part of it was the subsequent Twitter conversation I had with a few folks, including a well-known agent & bookseller who ran through some of the more comprehensible reasons why a store might have a “no photography” policy. Those reasons included the potential for research into a store’s business strategy and the sneaky tactic of previewing books in the store, only to run off and order them online.
Food for thought, I suppose. I’m not interested in hating on the booksellers, because I’m predisposed to like people who work in bookstores, even if we’re talking about a non-independent entity like B&N. And I also understand that a business like B&N (or any kind of retail location, for that matter) can set this kind of policy if they want to – I’m not the owner of the store, but if I was, I’d probably see it as my right to do so (not that I would, but you get my drift). I’m also familiar with the experience of cleaving to some larger institutional policy that I may or may not agree with or understand, so I’m doing my best to see things through the eyes of my accusers. But does this mean I should stop taking pictures of books in bookstores?
That would be a bummer, frankly. I like doing it, for one thing. Another thing is that quite a few of the authors and illustrators whose books I’ve shot pics of have expressed positive thoughts about it, although certainly not all of them. Perhaps there are some who have negative feelings about it but haven’t said so in the interests of being nice? I’m now curious to know. And I confess, there’s one thing that’s become a long-term goal of mine, and that’s to enjoy the moment when I finally add a photo of my OWN shiny, published book to that gallery. There’s no saying when that might be, of course, but really, that would be fun.
I’ve taken photos in dozens of stores over the past year or two, and I’m not covert about it. In fact I tend to be pretty obvious about the whole thing – I’ve snapped pics right in front of Barnes & Noble staffers on many occasions, and I stride manfully through the store with my camera in open view, pretending like I’m a National Geographic photographer as I capture images of these books in their natural, circle-of-life habitat. This is the first time I’ve been questioned, which makes me wonder if the majority of B&N clerks don’t enforce this policy because they don’t know about it or disagree with it.
Booksellers are not the enemy, and there’s no possible way for an in-store clerk to verify that I’m not up to no good with these photos. I don’t want to make life difficult for those people, you know? But I LIKE my little hobby. I LIKE my little photo gallery. I shall ponder on this in the days to come.
P.S. By the by, I gots me a new contest coming up in the next couple of days. An ARC of a really great forthcoming MG novel has been made available as a prize, and since I’ve already read it, you shall have the opportunity to win it, o gentle minions. Look sharp.