If there’s a Barnes and Noble anywhere near you, you’re in luck for the next two weeks of Summer. The bookstore has started holding a series of events they’re calling Get Pop-Cultured, and if the last two weeks have been anything to judge by, they’re worth going to.
The first weekend was “Preview Weekend”, and there were tables set up with free sample chapter chapbooks from titles as varied as “Peanuts” and “Mistborn”. There were samples for kids, samples for YA readers, and samples for adults, though the titles selected were obviously selected to appeal to a range of readers. There was even a “Way of Shadows” comic book preview available. My personal favorite was the lovely poster of an illustration for George R. R. Martin’s “The Ice Dragon” done by Luis Royo.
The Barnes & Noble in my area allowed members of the local university’s Anime Club to come and create sidewalk chalk artwork for the event. They did a great job and got to share information and do some education about their favorite shows.
While things were relatively quiet on my Saturday morning stop that first weekend, the people who were there seemed very excited to be able to try new books without having to purchase them first. Of course, you could get that at a library and have the benefit of a librarians’ expertise when it comes to recommendations, but Barnes & Noble doesn’t quite carry the expectation of quiet that a library does. So, when a ten year-old boy came up to the table while I was there and squealed happily at the free WWE comic offered exclusively at the event, his parents didn’t have to hurriedly hush him.
There were also bookmarks and buttons given as freebies, along with several posters. The selection was fairly genre-heavy, which I had no problem with, as I am sure most people would agree, given that it’s a pop culture event. There were a few announcements regarding upcoming events, including a costume contest.
Week 2 of the Get Pop-Cultured events included a July 23rd Batman Day, in honor of Batman’s 75th Anniversary. There were fewer freebies offered at this event, but one of them included a special edition of “Detective Comics #27” and two different styles of bookmarks. The store also had discounts on all of its Batman merchandise.
That weekend was the DC Comics Spectacular, which still had the same Batman Day freebies, but expanded the sale to all DC comics. I got to see some very excited parents handing down their love of comics and graphic novels to their kids. They weren’t just buying books for their children, though, they were also buying books for themselves. There was a whole lot of all ages geek bonding going on in that store as shoppers showed off their superhero t-shirts and their purchases to each other.
Merchandise sales also tied in with San Diego Comic Con, with Funko letting Barnes & Noble sell some of their Comic Con exclusive figures. There were some Despicable Me 2 minions that I had to think long and hard about leaving on that shelf. Eventually, I walked away, but then, my hands were also full of quite a few books already.
The schedule is readily available on Barnes & Noble’s Website. My local Barnes & Noble has been heavily promoting their August 1st Frozen Friday event. They will be offering crafts, a storytime, sing-alongs, and other activities. There will probably be some additional sales tied into the events, though I the flyer helpfully provided by the staff on the DC Comics day doesn’t say that.
August 2nd is Marvel Day, and the small blurb on the flyer advertises giveaways and activities. Since it is Marvel’s 75th Anniversary as well, I would suspect that the store will have some special displays set up to make the Marvel merchandise that much easier to find.
Other events include James Patterson Day on August 3rd, a whole week dedicated to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles starting August 4th, and Page & Screen Weekend August 8th-10th. Of course, the whole thing is geared to draw in business and to sell more stuff once they get people into the store. The thing is, though, having the events to go to is really kind of fun, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t have many conventions to go to.
Anyone who lives close enough to go to the Barnes & Noble has access to at least a kind of mini-party for like-minded souls. The freebies range from very cool to slightly less exciting, but that’s going to be true of any place with giveaways. What I saw was people getting to share the books that make them happy with other people who would probably like them just as much. I heard a lot of “You liked that one? If you liked it, did you try reading-” and “I am going to have to add that one to the pile” in conversations. There was curiosity and real interest in the books, and some of that was fueled by tying those books to the movies and television shows they’ve spawned.
The environment of the Barnes & Noble I went to was welcoming. Nobody seemed to be perturbed in the slightest by the swarm of geeks coming the check out what was going on inside the stores. Suggestions were offered, questions were answered, and while the atmosphere was much more subdued compared to the conventions I’ve been to, people were still clearly there to have a good time.
I hope that Barnes & Noble makes the Get Pop-Cultured events an annual tradition. So far, I think they’ve been a good idea and a nice way to get geeks out having fun, especially if they couldn’t quite make it to San Diego Comic Con.