Monday, August 16, 2010

An Interesting Twist On No Drinks Allowed

Photo © 2010 Melissa Koehler Photograph
I've been a bookseller for long enough to remember a time when it was common to see "no drinks allowed" signs posted near the entrance to most bookstores.

Of course, that mentality changed a bit when the big box stores that included a Starbucks inside started to pop up in the mid 90's.  Given that, when these stores first sprung up, they were filled with tables, chairs and even armchairs and couches, the whole idea seemed to be: "C'mon into the bookstore, and hey, don't worry about bringing food or beverages inside - all of that is welcome. In fact, if you didn't bring any, there's a convenient place for you to buy some."

There was, perhaps, a bit of a backlash after the explosion of "coffee is welcome" into bookstores.  I mean, I've seen more than my fair share of customers putting their drink down the wrong way ON TOP of an expensive ART or PHOTOGRAPHY section of books. (Murphy's Law dictates they'd spill their latte down the most expensive books in the store rather than on a section of mass market paperbacks)

But now, it's just as likely you'll see a "no drinks allowed" sign as you'll see a bookstore with a coffee shop enclosed. (In Hamilton, you might see a "Yes, that includes Tim Hortons too" note added to the "no drinks allowed" since it's almost a requirement that you walk around with a cup of Tim's when you live in this fine city - I hope nobody catches me, because right now I'm walking around with a cup of coffee made inside my home . . . . I might get ousted if too many people find out)

But I still find it interesting to see a complete flip on the whole "coffee allowed in bookstores" issue.  On The New York Times blog, Nick Bilton writes about how books aren't allowed in a particular coffee shop in Manhattan.  (Okay, he's talking about e-books, they being a type of computer)  His article is entitled "No E-Books Allowed in This Establishment" and it certainly raises an interesting question -- if it's okay to sit in a coffee shop and read a book, why isn't a person allowed to sit and read an e-book?

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