Doctor Who and The Barnes & Noble
Before I start my rant a brief background on my history with Doctor Who:
I have been a fan of Doctor Who since I was 6 years old. This is not unusual in England, where Doctor Who is a part of the culture, much like Star Wars and Star Trek are here. In the USA most fans, at least my age or older discovered Doctor Who during their high school or college years, about the same time they discovered Monty Python or Dungeons & Dragons. I have to thank my cousin for introducing me to Doctor Who at such an early age. He wanted to watch the two Peter Cushing movies one weekend when they aired a movie matinee on one of the local channels. I was fascinated by this strange movie and the Dalek creatures in it, but I thought that’s all there were two old movies.
I few months later I was flipping channels on Saturday night and came across something on the local PBS channel (KERA) that appeared to be some sort of SciFi/Horror movie. There was a guy hiking through the woods at night, and there were some scientists studying and ancient skull. It kept cutting between the woods and the scientists, the ancient skull begins to glow and the hiker in the woods is chased by an unforeseen force. Eventually the hiker is unable to move his legs and is killed. Cut to interior of another room with a strange man, woman, and robot dog. The man, woman, and tin dog are apparently in a ship of some sort and it is being affected by the scientists equipment. I am completely engrossed at this point just trying to figure out what this is all about. Imagine my surprise when they land the ship and step out, you guessed it, it’s a Police Box. My six year old mind, snaps and says, “that’s the TARDIS, but that’s not the Doctor.”
I watched the entire story, I later found out it was titled “Image of the Fendahl.” It was excellent, and I was hooked again. For the next several years I tuned in to KERA religiously at 10PM every Saturday night for my weekly dose of Doctor Who.
When I was growing up I judged how good a book store was based on whether or not it carried Doctor Who books. Only the best book stores carried them. So I ask you why now in the 2010s the Barnes & Noble down the street from my house does not have any Doctor Who books?
In the 1980s and 1990s I understood that Doctor Who (in the US at least) was a cult series that could only be found on PBS stations late nights on Saturday. Also for the better part of both decades the only books available were a few informational reference books, and the Target novelizations of the TV episodes. Yet the little Walden Books and B. Dalton Books stores in my local mall in Waco, Texas, usually had a few of them in stock.
***** Warning RANT Ahead! *****
Now however Doctor Who is a multinational, multimedia juggernaut. It airs the same day in the US and Canada as it does in the UK. It hosts a premier screening in New York every year, and the current Doctor’s face and the shows logo are plastered all over city busses and billboards. At San Diego Comic Con the Doctor Who panel fills Hall H, the largest hall at the convention, to standing room only. Hall H seats over 6000 people, that’s more than the attendance of most conventions. People camp out the night before just to get into it. It is referenced on multiple American TV shows; The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, Leverage, Community, Eureka, The Simpsons, Futurama, and Supernatural. Doctor Who has a two-page spread in the Guinness Book of World Records. It holds records for the longest running SciFi series, most successful SciFi series, the largest fictional series [of novels] built around one principal character. Also Doctor Who graced the cover of Entertainment Weekly recently. It is the first time a non-American show has ever been on the cover.
The BBC releases a Doctor Who novel once a month, a classic Doctor Who story is released on DVD once a month, there are 14 new episodes aired every year, and Big Finish releases a new Doctor Who or Doctor Who spin-off audio play/book almost every week.
With all of this content being generated on a regular basis, imagine my surprise when I walked into my local Barnes and Noble, and the only Doctor Who material in the entire store were DVDs. However in their SciFi/Fantasy section they did have not one, not two, but three Eureka novels. Don’t get me wrong I really liked Eureka, and I think it was cancelled before its time, but seriously, three Eureka novels and not a single Doctor Who book? I was told that I could order any book B&N carry on their website and have it delivered to the store, but why would I order a book off the website and have it delivered to the store? If I am going to order it off the website, why wouldn’t I just have it shipped to my house? On top of that, if I was going to order off a website why wouldn’t I just order it off Amazon.com which is usually 10 to 30% cheaper than B&N’s website/store prices? I think I may have just spotted why Amazon is crushing Barnes & Noble.
I understand that in a brick and mortar store floor/shelf space is limited, and they are going to only stock items that they think will be the best sellers, but you can’t tell me that Eureka and 10+ year old Star Wars books are going to be better sellers than brand new Doctor Who books. And what is with all the toys in a book store? I can understand having some toys in the children’s section, and even having some of the Harry Potter toy wands next to the Harry Potter books, but what is with The Dark Knight Rises display of Batman masks and toy guns in the middle of the main isle? That is just bad taste after the recent events in Aurora, Colorado.
I know some of you may be saying, “My Barnes & Noble has a handful of Doctor Who books.” I know people that have worked at Barnes & Noble, and they way it works is, the high ups in New York determine what every B&N must carry. Like Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dungeons & Dragons, and Twilight. After that it is up to the store manager or the department managers to order what they think will sell in their store. So again I ask, who in their right mind would think that Eureka books would be better sellers than Doctor Who? On top of that, as popular as Doctor Who is nationwide, why is it not on the must-carry list for all stores?
This was the first time I have set foot in a large chain book store in quite some time, barring used book stores like Half Priced Books, and now I remember why. I can find what I want from the comfort of my home computer and have it delivered straight to my home without having to be disappointed at the sheer ineptitude of whomever is running my local Barnes & Noble book store.