I’m leaning toward declaring my support for this idea — the idea that it would be better if physical bookstores didn’t have subsections for different fiction genres, but just shelved all fiction alphabetically by author.
It won’t happen, of course, but what if it did? Sure, you’d spend more time browsing past romances / horror / literary fiction / and more romances while you looked for the fantasy novel you want, but
a) time browsing in a bookstore is certainly not wasted;
b) discovering that stuff outside your genre sometimes looks appealing might well broaden everybody’s reading experience;
c) it would sure discourage treating literary fiction as a special elevated category of fiction.
All three of those effects look like features rather than bugs to me.
On the other hand, how long are physical bookstores going to be important, anyway? And would anybody at all find it helpful or pleasant to “browse” online? I don’t see how. I even think the categories at Amazon are almost 100% useless — DOES anybody ever just browse through the no doubt infinite offerings under “fantasy books”? Surely not. Surely everyone searches strictly by author?
“Browsing” for me means looking through the SFBC mailing to see what’s out and reading blogs to see what’s good, and that sure limits my view of what’s out there. The only things that generally expand my horizons as a reader is getting sold on a book outside my normal range by a fantastic review on a book review blog, or getting hooked by a well-written hook on the SFBC mailing.
Of course, I can’t really browse in a physical store because the nearest said store is an 80 mile trip, one way. I do miss browsing sometimes! One of the very few disadvantages to living in the country.
How and where do you all browse? Or notice books usually outside your range?