Seeing as independent bookstores are slowly fading from general civilization as anything but novelties in most cities, and an eclectic, antidiluvian novelty, at that, I have grown suspicious that most citizens of America have forgotten how to behave in bookstores. I have ample evidence to suggest that attending a retail establishment of books in the digital age has created conundrums of etiquette.
First, the purpose of the WiFi is not to provide you a space to hang out endlessly, surfing the web. If you need the internet to entertain you in a bookstore, reconsider your life choices. The WiFi exists for one reason, only. The staff and you occasionally need to look things up in order to locate a book. That’s it. Sitting around in a bookstore on the WiFi, while surrounded by perfectly good, lovely, tangible books is a ridiculous failure on the part of the web-surfer. Get off the internet. This is not the place to be lonely in public. This is a place of communion with the great minds and writers of history. Go sit in a bar and drink at your computer, if you must, or turn to the ubiquitous coffee shop that remains unattached to a bookstore. There, you can be alone in public on a computer for hours and hours. Do buy something at least once an hour, too. It’s only polite.
Second, bookstores are not libraries. The level of quiet required in libraries is not necessary in bookstores. Certainly, polite tones of voice are appreciated, but talking about books is supposed to happen in bookstores. Talk, and talk merrily. Bookstores are places where souls are bared, washed, and rendered clean as sans serif black on perfect white paper. No running, and no shouting, but talking? Yes, talk. Of course, talk. How else is the staff going to entertain themselves if they cannot eavesdrop on your conversations!
Third, talking is not extended to the usage of cellphones. Bookstores are a waystation in the digital age. Do take your cellphones outside the store. Leave behind unpurchased merchandise, and step outside. Do not make calls or receive calls while in line to be served by the staff of the bookstore. Remember, people at bookstores are not your servants. They are often dangerous artists, capable of unspeakable acts of poetry, painting, and erudition. They can, and will, remember who harms them. They will remember who is disrespectful. They will never forget.
Fourth, If one does not find the book desired on the shelf, and one desires to place an order with the store for the book, this is a contract sealed in blood. You do not welch on it. You will return and purchase this book. Sorry, but once you’ve placed the order, you have signed a verbal contract to return for the book. If you know that you are forgetful, create a reminder for yourself so that you don’t have to count on bookstores following up to return and seek out the book, again. It is very important to return for the book.
Fifth, on the drinking and eating of food: Even if such things are permitted in the store, remember that you are in a hallowed, holy place. Keep the lids covered with spill-proof caps. Keep the food thoroughly napkin-ed and clean. If there are animals in the store, do not feed them for often animals do not thrive on the food of humans. If there are bookstore employees eyeing hungrily, it is appropriate to offer to share. Alas, bookstores do not pay very well, and sometimes employees are very hungry. It is polite to offer to share with the staff, if you have enough and it is delicious. Think of all the book signings and events where food is placed out for you, fair reader!
Sixth, if you are incapable of putting a book back in its proper place, do not merely put it down anywhere. Take it back to the front and hand it to an employee and explain that you forgot where it came from. They will be happy to reshelve it for you.
Seventh, leaving trash and mess in the store is bad. How would you feel if someone came into your home and left a bunch of junk and empty cups on your precious shelves of books? There are trash cans available, I assure you, and the staff is happy to help you to use them.
Ergo, let us review what rudeness is. Camping out with a bunch of food in open containers and messiness while surfing the store WiFi for hours without purchasing anything, making loud phone calls, and leaving books strewn about the place in stacks and wrong places and special ordering something that you have no intention of picking up is all bad. What do you think this is, Barnes & Noble?