Sunday, July 10, 2011

Essay: Counting Down to A Dance With Dragons

I'm an opportunist. In college, I carried a spare umbrella just so that I can loan it to someone when it rained. Having said that, I'll seldom have the courage to ask a girl out. Does that make me active or passive? I don't know, that's the problem with binaries.

My Sunday nap was interrupted by a text message from one of my favorite customer service representatives. She informed me that their branch had only stocked five copies of A Dance With Dragons, and that she reserved me a copy (which is why she's now my favorite customer service rep).

Now here's how my mind works: Great, I have a copy. Oh crap, what about my-crush-who-rejected-me, my friends, the guy I met at GeekFight the other day whom I told A Dance with Dragons would be available at the local bookstore?

There's opportunity here, a chance to be a hero to some friends if I managed to get them copies, because clearly, there's going to be a shortage of books. It's time to earn my self-labeled monicker, Bibliophile Stalker.

A part of me hates this situation. Why does book scarcity have to ever come into play? On the other hand, I'm good at this kind of crisis. I start making phone calls to various bookstores and branches. I encounter both helpful and unhelpful customer service representatives. I start visiting bookstores.

There's lots of disappointing and sometimes conflicting (remember the part about unhelpful customer service representatives?) reports. Fully Booked's main branch at The Fort for example reported has only twenty copies of the book and they're not accepting reservations. It's a different story at the Shangri-La branch, however: At first they said they only have one copy remaining... I can have it reserved and pick it up today... and then wait, it will only be available on the 12th... and then that one remaining copy is already reserved so no dice.

National Bookstore--the country's largest bookstore chain--is a mystery when it comes to A Dance With Dragons. The most helpful customer service rep I talked to said that they don't expect stocks to arrive until the 11th so they don't know in what quantities they'll be acquiring it but it'll be released on the 12th. Of course the question is how much copies of the book they received and how much will be allocated to each branch.

Now I know George R. R. Martin isn't as popular in the Philippines as other authors best-selling authors. There was no shortage of Harry Potter books for example, even as fines lined up at Powerbooks to claim their copies as early as 7 am on book launch day. National Bookstore is currently prepping for Lauren Kate's second visit (and there's a big acknowledgment to National Bookstore in her recent novel) so there won't be a book shortage for her fans either.

On the other hand, living in the Philippines, it's also rare for a genre title to have a day one simultaneous release with the rest of the world (there are exceptions of course like those previously mentioned). I remember the days of visiting bookstores for the entire month of August and September just to wait for Terry Brook's latest novel to come out or Ellen Datlow's latest anthology. So I can't be too sad about A Dance With Dragons as it's having a worldwide simultaneous release (well, technically, we're getting it 12 hours ahead of time). I'm just disappointed when it comes to this missed opportunity (for the bookstores). Not that they're to blame--for all I know, the publisher themselves might have limits due to Martin's newfound popularity.

When Tuesday arrives though, National Bookstore might have ordered a lot of books. Or the customer service reps might have been mistaken. I don't know. Hopefully there'll be enough books to go around. And at the end of the day, I realize this is a nerdy and trivial problem.

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