As you’ve probably noticed, big bookstores such as Barnes & Noble are located in cities all around the United States. They differ from bookstores in the past in that they usually contain cafes, where readers can get something to eat and/or drink while they’re browsing. They also have comfortable easy chairs, where readers can sit comfortably while becoming engrossed in reading a book.
Another characteristic of these stores is that they sponsor book discussion groups. Groups usually focus on a particular type of book–mysteries, philosophical, history, scientific, etc. Anyone new to an area should consider joining such a book group as a means of getting to know people in that locale. And if the newcomer (or anyone else in the area) is an avid reader, she or he should offer to lead a book discussion group at the store.
Usually, there’s a staff person with a title such as Community Relations Manager who should be contacted, in order to arrange for such a discussion group. Bookstores are willing to sponsor discussion groups for a number a reasons–(1) they draw people (i.e. prospective customers) into the store, (2) they help the store with its community outreach aims, and (3) they can lead to more sales of books.
Discussion groups typically meet once a month, for approximately an hour. During the actual meeting, participants discuss various aspects of a specific book. Naturally, discussions are more lively and engaging when everyone present has actually read the book. But, even in instances where not everyone has, a skillful group leader can foster a satisfactory level of discussion about a book.
To let people know about the book discussion groups, stores usually include mention of them in their monthly newsletters. Often, a calendar of events column appears in each edition of a newsletter, indicating when each group will be meeting during that month. In addition to providing the date and time of a group’s meeting, the newsletter will specify the title of a group’s book selection for that month.
Other means that stores use to publicize book discussion groups include having them listed on booksmarks which are freely distributed to customers and by describing them on posters which they place in the store’s windows at street level.
The activities of discussion groups serve not only to benefit the store but also to bring together readers who are interested in a particular subject. In recent months, one group devoted to biographies read Forden’s The House of Gucci , Fraser’s The Wives of Henry VIII , Stahl’s Reporting Live , Graham’s Personal History , and Rockefeller’s Memoirs .
In today’s world, when fewer people are reading books, it encouraging to see the bookstores sponsor book discussion groups.