Wal-Mart vs. George Carlin


An Anonymous Patron writes " Wal-Mart has decided that their customers are unlikely to buy a George Carlin book that is currently fifth on the NYT Best Seller List. Does the company think their shoppers are a breed apart?".

Daniel adds: Does this add to the controversy over whether library shelves should mirror bestseller lists? Should we stock ourselves according to what sells at Wal-Mart?


Situations like this, when they decide not to offer a product for dubious reasons, is pretty trivial. Yet, I feel like we are reliving the 1890s all over again. Corporations and wealthy individuals with tremendous power. Monopolies in the distribution of goods. Inequalities in wealth increasing.

Is a progressive political movement on the way? Hmm...

Funny, a patron at my public library just complained very vehemently that we had too many conservative books and not enough liberal ones. Having looked at our collection, I think it's a pretty even split. Maybe it all depends on what you want to see - you'll always notice the books that piss you off, perhaps.

What sells in the NE won't necessarily sell in Sandusky, Ohio. Do you think Wal-Martians, left-of-center shoppers are too stupid to find their way to a real bookstore, one with the appropriate quota of Bush bashing books to satisfy their needs? The book sections I've seen at Wal-Mart are rather small, heavily stocked with craft and hobby and diet, and a smattering of best selling fiction. And why in the world would anyone care, including me? Why are we even discussing this insane topic? Time to fix dinner.

If Walmart only cared about making money, they would sell the top two non-fiction books in the US.

Top 5 at a Glance
1. AMERICA (THE BOOK), by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin and David Javerbaum
5. THE LAST SEASON, by Phil Jackson with Michael Arkush

...having librarians stop collecting books based on some sort of fuzzy moral formulaThat really wasn't my point.

My point is that librarians purchase liberal "popular" political books, from taxpayer funds, at a disproportionate rate than similar conservative titles.

I don't see the relevance of Wal Mart with this issue. There business is none of my business.

I agree. I visit many Wal-Mart store, and am always surprised to see how differently each is stocked to reflect the locals' preferences. This is one of the reasons the smaller towns hate to have them build in their areas of expertise and geography. They are good at satisfying the customer! Books are products. Commodities. And this particular one is pretty insignificant.

George Carlin, an aging, balding foul mouthed hippie comedian who you'll remember only if you were watching TV in the 1970s, probably doesn't have a huge following among gen-xers or echo-boomer buyers. He's right up there with grannie pants. That demographic has the money. If Carlin would sell at Wal-Mart, you can bet your Bippus it would be on the shelves.

Wal-Mart is often viewed as "the market of lower/middle class America", . . .

Wal-Mart is a business; Wal-Mart is in it to make a buck. Wal-Mart will do whatever it can to pad its profit margin. That almost certainly means pandering to the Least Common Denominator, for one thing, and rejecting materials that might conceivably turn off consumers.

That sounds kind of anacronistic to me - having librarians stop collecting books based on some sort of fuzzy moral formula. Yet, that was Tomeboy's point, with liberal political books favored over conservative ones.

-I really do not see the controversy here. If Walmart does not want to sell the book in their stores, so what? For the most part, Walmart has been pretty consistent with this sort of thing, so it certainly is not as if they are prejudicing George Carlin.

-But when this comes to libraries, I do not see any reason why this book should or should not be put on the shelves. Though, if this book slants a certain way as I think it does, then the librarian putting this in circulation should put a counter book against it: To avoid any ideas about political bias.

What I was getting at was the question of "How do we stock our libraries to reflect the desires of our communities?" There has been some discussion on LISNews on this question and at least one person suggested that librarians were purchasing items based on bias rather than what regular people were interested in based on bestseller lists.Wal-Mart is often viewed as "the market of lower/middle class America", so an argument could be made that to mirror the taste of the "common person", perhaps we should mirror what Wal-Mart sells in books, videos, etc. I'm not making this argument myself, but I was curious to see if someone else would.

"Does this add to the controversy over whether library shelves should mirror bestseller lists? Should we stock ourselves according to what sells at Wal-Mart?"

Okay maybe after re-reading I do get it... are you suggesting that there is a different kind of best-seller list? A Walmart list? That's possible, but budgets are big enough these days that I think the bases are pretty much covered. There's no reason we can't stock both.

They wouldn't even stock Billie Lett's book "Where the Heart Is" and Wal-Mart is featured quite prominently in the book. They changed their tune when Oprah called and asked if she could film her show featuring the book in Wal-mart with a wall of the books for sale behind her.
So if Carlin is truly upset over this, he can always call on Oprah.