chain bookstores suck
I hate to say it, because it sounds like I'm just another liberal elite, but Border's sociology section is appalling. Amazon.com all the way. If you want to hang out at Borders for a couple of hours waiting for someone to get out of a meeting and you figure you might be able to read a little more of The Protestant Ethic at the bookstore in the mall (because you only got excerpts via PDF), you'd be sorely disappointed. Also, apparently the economics section is all biographies of billionaires and the religion section is all self-help. Bah. Good thing I packed a couple of articles to read.
There's lots of good independent and academic bookstores in this liberal college city, but more often than not I just use our excellent libraries or order online. But I imagine that I will be grateful for them one day, and miss them and rue my underutilization. Outside of a few cities, there are no good concentrations of bookstores, and so anywhere else you might live will probably not be good shelf-browsing. Online sellers have everything, but not that eye-level perusal. The big chain bookstores offer nothing interesting to peruse, merely a glossy jacketed blur of banal hyperbole. But this again sounds like the complaint of the overeducated elite complaining about the venal tastes of the masses, and you know, I'm not like that.