Need feedback: Do you like "Classics" sections in used bookstores?

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Need feedback: Do you like "Classics" sections in used bookstores?

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Dez 6, 2010, 2:35 pm

I have posted this question already in the What Are You Reading Now? group, so apologies to those who are seeing this twice:

I recently shook hands on an agreement to buy an up and running used bookstore in Ukiah, CA, the county seat of Mendocino County and near where I live. I take over management in mid-January. So, here's my question:

Do you prefer used bookstores to keep a separate "Classics" section or to work "classics" like Dickens, Twain, Conrad, Hemingway, etc., into the regular fiction section. And can you say why, either way? The store currently has such a section, although not too robust a one, and I am trying to figure out the best policy on this issue.

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Dez 6, 2010, 2:47 pm

That's an interesting question. I would probably look for a Classics section before I went to a fiction section.

Would you put H.G. Wells & Jules Verne in the Science Fiction & Fantasy section if you integrated the classics?

Dez 6, 2010, 3:02 pm

#2> That's a great question. Off the top of my head, the answer would probably be "yes." What would you think of that?

Dez 6, 2010, 3:15 pm

rocketjk, for me a 'Classics' section is a non-starter because I no longer buy books of classic literature. Almost all the classics I want are available free online and in ePub format.

For the past 2 years or so the only classics I have bought are new, better translations such as recent translations of Cervantes or Tolstoy.

So, unfortunately, it doesn't matter where you put these books: I won't be buying them.

Dez 6, 2010, 5:31 pm

When I had bookshops I did not have separate sections for classics because so much is a matter of personal taste. Today in the library a customer described Mary Norton's The Borrowers as a classic and I note that Penguin brand it as a Puffin Modern Classic but I would not have shelved it in a classics section had I got one.

And, yes, I did put H. G. Wells & Jules Verne in the Science Fiction section. We used 'Fantasy' as the label for a high fantasy section.

Dez 6, 2010, 6:54 pm

interesting question!

I think my answer would be to keep a separate Classics section, but to think of (and maybe even subtitle) it as "Stuff You Were Supposed to Read in School." In my experience that's where a lot of the traffic in the Classics section comes from anyway (people stocking up for school reading assignments) and there's something to be said for having the section distinct and (by virtue of being compact) easily searched.

The term Classics is (as TheoClarke notes) misleading. A work can be a classic without being part of the Canon -- Alas Babylon or The Phantom Tollbooth or The Riddle of the Sands. When people ask for "classics" in a bookstore as a search category, though, my experience is that they mean, loosely anyway "canonical."

My two cents, anyway . . .

Dez 6, 2010, 10:18 pm

Separate section for the classics, imho.

Dez 7, 2010, 1:32 am

As someone who spends A LOT of time and money in used bookstores I have to say I prefer that the classics be intermingled with regular fiction. "Classics" can be subjective. And some used bookstores are creating so many subsections I often have to look in 2-3 sections to make sure I have covered all the bases when looking for a title.

I was in a used bookstore tonight and the proprietor had separated his Science Fiction section into "Wars", "Swordplay", "Space", and more. Made me think he had some spare time on his hands.

Dez 8, 2010, 8:19 pm

I personally love when used bookshops have a "classics" section. They are the books that I buy the most, and it's nice for them to all be one place.
It can also be interesting noting what books the owner has deemed worthy of classic status, though I can see how it could easily become difficult to decide which section certain books belong in.

Dez 8, 2010, 8:52 pm

Near where I live we have a used bookstore that I go to A LOT, and they have the classics seperated. I have to say that I like that arrangement. I buy a lot of classic books and it's really easy just to go right to that section and see what they have. They also have a second section for school reading lists, which includes a lot of classics and also more modern classics, like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; 1984; and The Outsiders, just to name a few off the top of my head.

Dez 10, 2010, 2:39 am

When I worked in a used bookstore, we had a separate classics section, and it worked out well. I agree that it's definitely helpful for folks who are shopping for school reading. Sometimes, we would waffle a bit over whether a particular book was a "classic," but this would happen with other categories, too. If we ever had multiple copies of those books, we'd shelve them in the different possible sections, just to cover our bases.

Dez 10, 2010, 7:11 am

I do not like a classics section because you can charge more for a classic than you can for a regular old book.

Dez 12, 2010, 7:23 pm

> 12

Interesting . . . I find just the opposite: That the books in the Classics sections of my local used bookstores are cheaper than those in the General Fiction section. They seem more likely to be older paperback editions, and (if the store uses the half-the-cover-price pricing model) cheaper as a result.

Jan 5, 2011, 2:40 pm

I have friends in the used book business who keep a separate classics section purely for marketing reasons, just for students who want to save a little money. Frequently they are a bit dog-earred because they come back in after the assignment is finished and get recycled through the next year's students.

Jan 8, 2011, 3:13 am

The bookstore I work at has a Classics section, but we define classics very specifically, only Greek and Roman authors (and lit crit specific to them). Anything else considered a classic, for example Dante's Inferno, is integrated into the rest of the store. We tried using a broader definition, but our customers complained. We might just have picky customers though:)

Jan 8, 2011, 4:14 am

I'd be in favor of abolishing the classics section. My reasoning on this is because "classic" is so variable and is really a catch-all term. Classics are from many different genres.

H.G. Wells & Jules Verne belong in Science Fiction, other books considered classics really belong in Romance, Historical fiction, Fantasy, etc; I would rather see books classified in their true genre rather than any sort of catch-all.

Jan 8, 2011, 10:13 am

"The Classics" are Greek and Roman literature. Period.

Jan 8, 2011, 10:14 am

It's almost like when a used bookstore has a "fiction" section and a "literature" section.

Jan 8, 2011, 2:31 pm

It's really annoying when bookstores have split "fiction" and "literature." It makes it feel like they're denigrating the book I want, if it doesn't qualify as "Literature," quite aside from the nuisance of having to look in two places.

Fev 19, 2011, 2:42 pm

At the local Savers and Goodwill, those sections can get pretty comical.

Fev 19, 2011, 3:17 pm

I agree with benjclark. When I see "classics" in a bookstore, I think of ancient Greek & Roman literature.

Fev 19, 2011, 3:46 pm

I use a "classics" tag in LibraryThing - only Greek and Roman works.

Fev 19, 2011, 3:56 pm

The classics referred to when one uses the term Classical Studies are Greek & Roman, and the classics referred to when discussing Classic Literature can be any work deemed to fit the term by just about anyone. Happily, I can use the tag on all my Thomas Hardy titles on LT and still sleep well at night.

Fev 19, 2011, 5:18 pm

Hi all, as the original poster of this thread, I just thought I'd chime in with an fyi progress report. I am finally up and running with my bookstore, and I did indeed just complete the project of integrating the books that had been separated into a "classics" section in with the general fiction/literature. I've got lots of genre fiction in the store: mysteries, science fiction, espionage/adventure, westerns and romance all have their own sections. But most of the non-genre fiction, literature or whatever you'd call it, are now integrated into one area. I did, however, follow the lead of just about every used bookstore I visited during my research and create a "Popular Fiction" section. These are the paperbacks that were once popular but are now basically out of date, for want of a better way to put it. So maybe the section should be called "Previously Popular." I'm talking about the Jacqueline Briskins and Barbara Taylor Bradfords of the world. However, this section is easy to find, so anyone looking for that sort of thing can go to town!

Otherwise, I agree with clamairy. The works of Conrad, Austin, Dickens and Hawthorne, for example, are all classic literature as far as I'm concerned. I just don't see a need for them to have their own section in my store.

Fev 21, 2011, 11:05 pm

Congratulations on being up and running, rocketjk!

Fev 22, 2011, 8:23 am


Fev 23, 2011, 10:53 am

>24 rocketjk:

Congratulations on your shop. I hope you can always buy and turn over stock. A store that has the same offering month after month will lose its regular clientele who feel they don't have to visit as often. You can imagine what this does to the bottom line.

I agree with your move to place "classics" in the general fiction area. I'm much more likely to search a general fiction area in a store anyways in search of the little-known authors or pen names I seek. There are also more opportunities for sleepers in this sort of section in my experience. Plus, as seen here, one person's definition of a "classic" is not the same for others. Even if you stuck with the traditional canon, there would be people wanting to know why such and such wasn't in the classics section.

Yesterday we did some bookhunting in Glendale and North Hollywood, California with some success.

James Keeline

Mar 28, 2011, 7:34 am

Congrats! If only you weren't on the opposite side of the country...

Mar 29, 2011, 12:55 am

Thanks for the good wishes one and all. By the way, my "starter kit" website is here:

Mar 29, 2011, 8:15 am

Some of my friends would jump at that green Virago! :-))

Editado: Abr 5, 2011, 9:57 pm

19.> "It's really annoying when bookstores have split fiction and literature."

Aside from the nuisance of looking in two places, when a book store splits fiction and literature, the classification is also inaccurate. Fiction is literature, but literature is not merely fiction. Literature is also poetry, essays, romance, etc; not just fiction... thus, literature is also a "catch-all term" and shouldn't be used at all.

Abr 4, 2011, 11:00 pm

31> Well, when you have a store that has separate mystery, science fiction, spy/adventure and romance sections, all of which are fiction and all of which may or may not be considered literature, what title do you use for the section of "literary" novels, classics, etc., that do not fit into any of those genres?

Abr 5, 2011, 9:57 pm

General Fiction.

Editado: Abr 6, 2011, 2:47 pm

#33> That may serve one's linguistic preferences, but it seems pretty drab as an inducement to browse and buy.

I am using "Literary Fiction." Whether it is precisely etymologically correct is beside the point to me. My customers know what it means and it is a label much more likely to generate interest.

Abr 7, 2011, 8:31 am

"Literary Fiction" is a very good choice, imho.

Abr 12, 2011, 9:54 pm

Literary Fiction is good but that label could be misleading. There are some fictional tales that seem to have few or no literary qualities. However, what serves your customers best is what you should use.

Abr 10, 2012, 10:50 pm

I like it when the fiction is together I think this thread alone shows why everybody has a different definition of the term classic. That said I love when a bookstore has a separate section for rare, first run, leather bound or autographed books that's usually where I go first.

Abr 11, 2012, 1:31 am

I prefer them separated.

Abr 17, 2012, 4:07 pm

Sometimes the "Classics" section can be quite laughable. Other times, like in Half Price Books, it is quite good, although they have a Fiction section that intermingles classic and contemporary fiction.