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My inclination is to simply integrate these books into the general fiction population, but I was wondering whether anyone has some perspective for me on this question, pro or con. Thanks!
I know this post is ancient, but I see you are still active, so I'll answer it anyway!
You've made your decision 5 years ago, but my two cents is: their own section. Most bookstores don't, and there's good sense to that. In my own bookstore, though, I keep them separate because of two reasons:
1. It makes selection easier for people who want to read/own a classic. They don't get confused by all the modern lit or the older fiction.
2. If your bookstore is anything like mine, you don't have just a big huge endless row of bookshelves. My store is so squirelly that if I had to combine all the fictions together, it wouldn't make geographic/logistic sense!
>4 .Monkey.: There are more classifications of novels than "classics" and "goofy top sellers," though. Louise Erdrich, Dave Eggers, Michael Chabon and T.C. Boyle are just the first four to catch my eye after a quick glance at my fiction shelves. Not to mention interesting older novels (or even newer ones!) that might catch a discerning reader's eye, books and authors they might not even have heard of, and end up as very enjoyable reading experiences. Or the "Oh, yeah, right. I've been meaning to read that" books that you'd never come across if you were solely perusing a "Classics only" section.
I can see stores that sell new books doing this. Or stores that are very large. City Lights in San Francisco does it, and that's my favorite new bookstore in the world.
To each his/her own, of course. I hope you'll still come visit my bookstore when you're in Mendocino County, CA. :)
But as a bookseller, I'm happy with my decision, because it leads to more sales. People ask for the Steinbeck section, and I show it to them, and then they come away with a Steinbeck and a Zadie Smith and, oh yeah, that one Jane Smiley that they never got around to reading.
...I was going to rant and explain but forget it, I'd rather go read.
Same goes for home. I don't have enough space for my fiction to stay together, so I have classics in one room and modern fiction in the other. I do, however, intermingle "old fiction" (which is separate in my stores) into each section.
I do, however, very much see the serendipity potential in having one big section, and if I had different layout, I would probably do it!
I do, actually, have a Classics section in my store, but it could just as accurately be called the Antiquities section. I use it for works like the Odyssey and the Aeneid, and epic poetry like The Song of Roland.
>10 browsers: I only have one employee, and she works on the days I'm not in the store. She had trouble for a long while telling the thrillers from the mysteries/crime novels. I told her to look at the story synopsis when in doubt. If the protagonist is a policeman or an FBI agent, it's Mystery. Any sort of "agent" or "conspiracy" makes it Spy/Adventure. After a while she got the hang of it.
Funny you should mention W.E.B. Griffin. I've got him in three places! Most of his series go in Military Fiction, the Presidential
Agent series goes in Spy/Adventure and the Badge of Honor is in Crime/Mystery.
Whatever the organizational scheme (or lack thereof), the very act of hunting is not only part of the fun, but also can lead to unexpected and pleasing surprises.