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Reading in the Borderland: An Ethnographic Study of Serious Readers in a Mega-Bookstore Café

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Today, mega-bookstores are one of the most powerful sponsors of reading. They are not just selling books; they are teaching people new ways to read. The enthusiasm among some individuals to read in a retail store (as opposed to the home or library) did not occur spontaneously. Mega-bookstores' marketing strategies underwrote a “commercial-contract approach to reading” and wider social formations helped enable it. This ethnographic study explores the tension between the reading environment constructed by one Borders bookstore in a midwestern college town and the different expectations and practices that serious and not-so-serious readers bring to the café. Although the reading culture in the café appears unstructured, Borders has made sure that little has been left to chance. Borders' fluid “social, sensual” narrative of reading is designed to control store space by affirming the identities of its preferred customers and by promoting reading practices that translate into sales.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Ernie Pyle School of Journalism, Indiana University

Publication date: April 1, 2005


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