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The bookstore/RPG ecosystem
Posted by WJWalton on Mon 19 of Dec., 2011 08:47 PST
On the Roleplaying Research blog, W.A. Hawke Robinson tells the story a brief and unfruitful quest to find roleplaying books in three different stores - one bookstore and two different game stores - and what this could mean about the general knowledge of and attitude towards traditional RPGs in game and book stores everywhere:
This has me thinking about the different attitudes of the stores and the impact on RPG adoption. If only a very few stores even carry RPGs (they used to be at every hobby/comic/bookstore), then unless someone was already looking for RPGs, they would never have a chance to learn about them from just browsing in a store during the holidays and such (as I saw many doing, and overheard many saying they wanted to find a good game for their kids).
His experience has made him consider conducting a short survey to give to store employees regarding their knowledge of roleplaying games, and whether or not they carry them in their stores.

This post came to my attention at about the same time that I was searching for brick-and-mortar bookstores in Kent County, Delaware. Due to the failure of Borders, we have recently lost our Waldenbooks (where I purchased a great deal of D&D supplies back in the 80s), and the only other dedicated bookstore in the county, Atlantic Book Warehouse, will be shutting its doors very soon. Once it does, it appears that we will have no bookstores in an entire county of our state. (This is even more troubling when you consider that while it is the second smallest state in the United States, Delaware's three counties are actually a lot larger than those in other states.)

Game stores are almost as rare - there is one that seems to be thriving in Dover, the state's capital, and a comic book store that hosts game events not too far away, but many others have come and gone over the years, unable to gain a good foothold no matter where they pop up.

It's sort of an ecosystem - with these elements missing or scarce, fewer people will discover RPGs by happening upon them on the shelves (or even better, spotting a group of players having a good time and getting curious). I would guess that the advent of ebooks has something to do with this, but I'm no expert. If my guess is a good one, however, we may have to start looking into new and different ways to promote the roleplaying hobby.

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