Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bookstore Review: Borders Queen Street (Auckland CBD)

In the second of an irregular (hopefully increasing) series on this blog, I take a look at how well (or not) the flagship Borders bookstore on Queen Street in Auckland displays, publicises and otherwise supports New Zealand crime and thriller writing instore.
As I said in the first bookstore review on 25 August, there are many many things, other than the quality of a book, that can play a big part in how successful it, or its author, may be in terms of sales, readership, mainstream media coverage, and potentially interested readers even becoming aware of it/them. There are so many books out there, and so many good and great authors and titles amongst them, that many haven't received the success or attention they deserve.

While many things can't be controlled, some can - so as part of an irregular series on this blog, I will be 'mystery shopper-ing' some New Zealand bookstores, examining how well (if at all) they highlight, display, or otherwise offer NZ crime fiction to their customers. After all, if our own bookstores don't support local crime writing, how can we expect overseas ones to?

So for the second instalment in this series, I visited Border's flagship store on Auckland's Queen Street (a giant multi-level store that is part of the movie complex). Here are some of my findings:

  • Borders has a dedicated crime section, as well as a dedicated NZ fiction section - the New Zealand section is on the entry-level floor, immediately to the right - the quite large crime and thriller section is downstairs. They seem to place NZ crime/thriller fiction in either or both of these sections, along with the general fiction (alphabetical by author) section.
  • Dorothy Fowler's debut, WHAT REMAINS BEHIND, Paul Cleave's CEMETERY LAKE (1 copy) as well as several Joan Druett titles, including her latest-ish Wiki Coffin mystery, DEADLY SHOALS, were prominently displayed with front facings in the New Zealand section, and Vanda Symon's THE RINGMASTER had a spine facing (2 copies) and Dr Jo Drayton's biography of Ngaio Marsh was also there (GOOD/GREAT);
  • The crime/thriller section was very good overall - all three of Paul Cleave's titles had multiple copies and several front facings of the latest CEMETERY LAKE, both Vanda Symon's titles, and both of Andrea Jutson's were also available. There were also a number of Ngaio Marsh titles in stock, and Drayton's biography was also put beside these (linked thematically if not alphabetically by author - good thinking Borders staff) (GOOD/GREAT).
  • I was a little confused when I couldn't find Lindy Kelly's BOLD BLOOD (#1 NZ fiction bestseller earlier this year) or Dorothy Fowler's WHAT REMAINS BEHIND - but it turned out there were multiple copies of these (with front and spine facings), in the general fiction section just around the corner (GOOD/GREAT)
  • One glaring ommission was that the latest released NZ crime/thriller title, Alix Bosco's debut, CUT & RUN, was not displayed anywhere. Looking it up on their computer (great they have these readily available for customers), it seemed it was only available by "special order", even though it has been out for a few weeks (ie they weren't stocking it) (POOR)
  • There also didn't appear to be any books in stock from British-born, NZ-based author Neil Cross (BURIAL, ALWAYS THE SUN, HOLLOWAY FALLS etc) (POOR)
So overall, Border's Queen Street was far better at stocking and displaying NZ crime/thriller fiction than Whitcoulls Queen Street. Could they improve? Yes - there was no stock of NZ's latest crime thriller (which at least was stocked in Whitcoulls, and has been one of celebrity Kerre Woodham's recent reviews for Paper Plus), or a Booker-longlisted NZ-based thriller writer. Borders could also improve by perhaps highlighting the NZ crime fiction a little better - they have a "Borders Recommends" shelf in the crime/thriller section, but no NZ titles were amongst the recommended books. Several books which aren't necessarily as good as some of the NZ crime fiction they stock, were.
I can't see any reason why at least some of the best NZ crime fiction couldn't be featured more - put on an end, or in the 'Recommended' sections etc. Or at least have a tag underneath with 'Local Writer', 'New Zealand crime' or something like that - or a copy of a small review, either in-house or from a magazine etc - anything that could catch a browsing customers attention. Borders also has a 'shortlist' email mailout internet users can sign up for - without having seen all the recent e-mailouts, I'll just say it would be nice to see some NZ crime/thriller titles highlighted to customers as part of this as well.
Borders is already doing well in a relative sense, but by doing a few more little things, they could really make a difference and help out the reading public in terms of exposing them to great crime writing, that just happens to be written by locals.
So overall for Borders Queen St, I give them 3.75 out of 5. Good work, but has the potential to do even better. Thoughts?


  1. I like the fact you're reviewing the bookstores! As a writer it is frustrating and disheartening when you can't find your books, if you can't find them, how can your readers?!

    But also being a realist, I know they can't possibly stock everything.

    I always appreciate it when stores make an effort with displays, or related material - great that Jo Drayton's Biography of Ngaio Marsh is being displayed with crime fiction in Borders.

    Keep up the shop reviews!

  2. I like the idea of bookstore reviews, too. I’ve given props to some bookstores here.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"