A New Kind of Pest: Bookstore Lurkers

Instead of boosting the bookstore and magazine shop economy, a group of companies for which I may someday work, I, along with numerous others in New York, am what many shop owners and managers call a “lurker.” A lurker is considered a distant participant, or “someone waiting in concealment,” insinuating that this person indeed reads a book or magazine from cover to cover, but does not “actively participate.” Active participation implies a monetary contribution; while a non-lurker will most likely walk into a bookstore, browse for a short while, find their literary treasure, buy this book or magazine, and happily leave, lurkers mosey into book stores and peruse the expansive shelves of books and mags. Lurkers lounge in one of the deceivingly uncomfortable chairs and read said book or mag from cover to cover, or at least extensively.  Lurkers might, perhaps, purchase a cup of coffee or appealing pastry, but they usually walk out of the store empty handed, denying the store of any monetary gain. A lurker is a fake customer. A leach, of sorts. A mosquito. A pest.

I am not proud to be a lurker, but my lack of  funds leaves me little choice. Sure, I’d love to purchase the Italian Vogue shining from the top shelf, but I can’t afford the hefty price, so I page through and oogle over the editorials and glossy images, indeed spending hours doing so, but usually walk out with only coffee breath and a back ache, the bookstore owner bidding me good riddance.

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72 Responses to A New Kind of Pest: Bookstore Lurkers

  1. A. Adam Glenn says:

    Hey, ever heard of a library!? Seriously, though, I remember reading an article a few years back (tried, but couldn’t find it online), in which the author rated the best book stores in New York to have a nice sit and read, read, read. In fact, I recall he actually would use a bookmark to mark his place and come back the next day to pick up where he left off. I’ll post, if I can find it.

  2. Hannah Miet says:

    The admirable thing about your lurking is that is shows a lack of materialism. Some people need to covet that book or magazine, and can’t let it go, even after the words have been digested. I am 100% guilty of this. I have a book buying addiction.

    I love that the switch to a more digital world has reduced many people’s dependency on physical things. (Netflix –> no need to buy DVD, iPad –> no need to buy physical magazines, etc.) But for whatever reason, I need to physically own every book I read, to shelve and deshelve and re-read at my will. My fetish for dog-eared pages is likely comparable to your fetish for glossy editorials.

    And I’m a librarian, for Chrissakes.

    I really like the way you ended this: the “coffee breath and backache” line.

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