Since returning stateside from Iraq I followed up with Army & Air Force Exchange Service officials to update an earlier post I wrote about the lack of non-fiction books on PX/BX shelves in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the trip photographer Chris Maddaloni and I found only one non-fiction book, an Oprah biography, at Exchanges we visited in Iraq.
As I expected, Judd Antsey, PR manager for AAFES, said his company stocks its shelves in accordance with what troops want.
I still find it hard to believe all soldiers want to read are steamy romance, science fiction and mystery novels, but he said the sales numbers bear it out. Nevertheless, in trying to keep up with troops’ interests, AAFES will start a test next month to see if troops really want to read non-fiction/military books, Antsey said.
Eighteen non-fiction/military titles will be stocked at 44 contingency Exchanges starting in March. After 60 days on the shelves, AAFES will “evaluate sales figures to determine demand for non-fiction titles.”
If non-fiction is what soldiers want, non-fiction is what they’ll get is the message I got from that. So, if soldiers want to see less romance novels and more World War II history books in their Exchanges downrange, put down those iPands and Kindles and buy an old-fashioned paperback.