So I read this today, thanks to one of my Facebook friends (thanks, Pierre!), to which one of his Facebook friends basically said the columnist couldn't possibly know what he was talking about, and my response was:

Many (most? all?) big bookstore chains have a "black literature" section, name varying by chain, and books by or about black folks go here by default. "Black people want to be able to find 'their' books" is the gist of the arguments I have heard in support of this practice, ignoring the fact that black people are pretty capable of finding books in the various genre sections as well, and don't probably need the additional "help" provided by segregation. My guess is that Wal-Mart is following the crowd here, and has not done any analysis of the different possible shelving strategies.

Additionally, I think there's an argument to be made that relegating certain books to the "black literature" section prevents people who aren't black from finding them (because while black people looking for science fiction for example will look in both the sci-fi and black sections, white people looking for science fiction are overwhelmingly unlikely to check the black section).

Wal-Mart (or any bookseller) may sell the same number of books under the two schemes, in fact I think it is likely--the brick-and-mortar bookstore experience is largely either "look for a specific book" or "browse and buy", and the browse-and-buy customer will probably find *something* and purchase it--but the *specifics* of which books are purchased under the two different schemes swings the advantage to "white" books in the segregated scenario, at the expense of "black" books and authors.

To argue that sales actually *increase* with book segregation is to imply that white Wal-Mart customers are frightened away from *all* books by the presence of "black" books nestled like land mines among all those "white" books. And while this fits my own preconceived notions of the typical white Wal-Mart customer, I'd want to see the studies that show this before I swallowed it as fact.


(For example, one thought is that because of this, if you're looking for new and different scifi to read, a browse through the "black literature" section of your local big-box bookstore--or Wal-Mart--might be a trip well worth taking.)

From: [identity profile]

I worked at a B&N in downtown Philly and we definitely did this. Fiction/lit was on the third floor, but 'urban lit' was on the first, right next to the register area. At that location that category had a very high theft rate. I can appreciate arguments that this segregating those books is socially unjust, stereotyping, and maybe even dehumanizing. But when the numbers tell you part of your inventory is disappearing at a rate disproportionate to other categories in a business where margins are already pretty thin you've got to do something, be it to stop carrying those titles or to keep an eye on them. Ironically, bibles were also a favorite of lifters.

From: [identity profile]

Did that section have a high shrinkage rate before it was moved to a location convenient to the exit?

Though it seems like, since I'm arguing that such a section shouldn't exist, a statement that books from that section get stolen more often would be an argument in support of my thesis, rather than against it.

From: [identity profile]

The books in that section had previously been in with the rest of fiction and only due to shrinkage were they segregated. In fact as far as the computer is concerned hey are just fiction which can be a pain in tracking down a book.