The Biggest Day of the Year for Newspaper Inserts

Jim Hamilton
Nov 25, 2011

Thanksgiving morning I go out to get the newspaper, which normally can be found midway up the driveway where the delivery guy heaves it from the street. To my amazement, it’s sitting on my doorstep and I do a doubletake because it looks suspiciously like the Sunday paper. It’s humongous. As I pick it up I see why it wasn’t thrown. It’s oozing with inserts and weighs a ton. The delivery guy would have separated his shoulder if he had thrown it. I bring it inside, groggily checking the wall calendar to be sure that it’s Thursday (not Sunday). It soon dawns on me that tomorrow is Black Friday, the biggest retail shopping day of the year, and therefore Thanksgiving, when most people have time to settle in with a newspaper and its advertisements, is most probably the biggest day of the year for newspaper insert printers.

Black Friday newspaper inserts from the Boston Globe

Black Friday newspaper inserts from the Boston Globe

I never shop on Black Friday. I hate crowds. I’d rather pay more to shop at some other time. Nevertheless I am drawn to the inserts and spend an hour of post-Thanksgiving dinner reverie going through the pile. Among the 56-page J.C. Penney and 64-page Kohl’s catalogs is a lonely one-page Barnes & Noble flyer that stands out due to its contrarian subject matter. A full page is dedicated to the Nook. The back side advertises toys and games. There’s nary a p-book to be found in this promotion from the largest remaining brick-and-mortar book chain. The only references to printed books I can find in the whole stack of inserts are a 30% off coupon for books at Ocean State Job Lot and a bunch of marked down Christmas books at Building 19 (another low-priced outlet).

With the demise of Borders and the ongoing pressure on brick-and-mortar bookstores, perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, yet in my house at least, printed books are still a desired gift item. Alas, they are nowhere to be found among a flood of offers for toys, games, clothes, sporting goods, consumer electronics, movie DVDs, housewares, winter gear, crafts, tools, and appliances. Would somebody please send me a book catalog?

Then it occurs to me where I generally buy books: airports. Most of the books I’ve purchased this year have come from airport bookstores. After that it’s a mix of Amazon.com, museum gift shops, used bookstores, and purchases either direct from the publisher or the author. One thing I know for sure: I won’t be headed to the airport to do any shopping this Black Friday.

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