Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

by Laura J. Miller


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Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller

Over the past half-century, bookselling, like many retail industries, has evolved from an arena dominated by small independent shops to one in which chain stores have significant market share. And as other retail fields, this transformation has often been a less-than-smooth process. But this has been especially pronounced in bookselling, argues Laura J. Miller, because more than most other consumer goods, books are the focus of passionate debate about commercialism. What drives that debate? And why do so many people believe that bookselling should be immune to questions of profit?

In Reluctant Capitalists, Miller looks at a century of book retailing, demonstrating that the independent-chain dynamic is not entirely new. It began a hundred years ago when department stores began selling books, continued through the 1960s with the emergence of national chain stores, and exploded with the formation of “superstores” in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet has further spurred tremendous changes in how booksellers approach their business. All of these changes have met resistance from book professionals and readers who believe that the book business should not be captive to market forces, but should also embrace more noble priorities.
Miller uses historical data and interviews with bookstore customers and members of the book industry to explain why books evoke such distinct and heated reactions. She reveals why customers seek out certain bookstores and why book professionals identify so strongly with different types of books. In the process, she also teases out the meanings of retailing and consumption in American culture at large, underscoring her point that consumer behavior is inevitably political, with consequences for communities as well as commercial institutions.  

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780226525907
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 04/15/2006
Edition description: 1
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Laura J. Miller is assistant professor of sociology at Brandeis University.


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