Simply Books at the Minneapolis airport

By | March 5, 2012

Day 1 of our photo blog

Last week our author Christopher Schaberg's guest post included a lovely photo of Brad Pitt. I immediately thought to myself, 'this man has good taste in photos'. Another quick look through Christopher's book affirmed this to me. And so was born the Airports photo week! Each day this week I will posting one of the brilliant photos/pictures from Christoper's book, The Textual Life of Airports, complete with critical commentary. Kicking off with….. Simply Books at the Minneapolis airport.

Simply Books in colour
'Once during a layover in the Minneapolis airport, I found myself killing time by wandering the C concourse, and exploring the little offshoots and shops that pepper the long hallway. In an alcove that led to the G gates, I was struck by a store called Simply Books. As it turns out, this is a chain of airport bookstores, run by the retail operator HMS Host and located in seven major U.S. airports. The idea of an airport bookstore may not sound surprising in the least. But what captivated me was the marketing of this consumer site as a simple space. For one thing, the bookstore sold much more than simply books. Magazines, newspapers, and other items geared toward airport distraction were on sale throughout the store. And then, I had to wonder about the strategic location of this bookstore: there is nothing simple about airport consumerism. Framing this shop, there was the stark geometric façade that made the bookstore appear almost temple-like, as if a space unto itself. Of course this aesthetic tactic is commonplace: many airport store thresholds are designed in such a way as to have them pop out of the visual matrix that is a terminal or concourse. At the same time, however, such design should never get in the way of the functional flows of the airport.

In this way, though, there was something about the presentation of Simply Books that seemed to challenge the directional force of the airport. The invitation was to simplicity, to a sort of idealized absorption in reading. This rubbed against the multiple demands of the space all around: calls to boarding, intermittent jet engine blasts, the airport CNN network blaring from the ceiling, changing gate information, navigating the architectural whims of the airport . . . . In short, the airport presented itself as an utterly demanding text, with myriad messages and streams of information coming at the reader (or passenger) from numerous directions. Amid all this, the Simply Books store stood out, at once discontiguous with the ambience and intimately a part of it.'

– The above is an extract from our book, The Textual Life of Airports by Christopher Schaberg – now available to buy. You can exclusively read the introduction and first chapter to the book here.

Jenny Tighe

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