Used Bookstores

She had a kind heart, though that is not of much use when it comes to the matter of self-preservation. – Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop

‘Why do you buy books you don’t even read?’ our daughter asks us. That’s like asking someone who lives alone why they bought a cat. For company, of course. – Sarah Addison Allen, The Sugar Queen

I’m back from having a few days off from the world. Cleared my head. Read a few pages. Had my fav dish in the whole world or at least in my part of the world. I live for this meal and I’m never disappointed. I eat it with my eyes closed so I can enjoy each and every mouthful. And then walk it all off! Not a beach but in this case to the local theater to hear author, Lee Child. I have never picked up his books except to shelf but now I have to. What a down-to-earth author. He came across as clever and fun. So I need to look through my stock and see what I have of his and start in.

During this trip I stopped in a number of used bookstores. This trip was different as I cut the number down to just three. I’m a shop owner who sticks to a budget and I met that amount with the three shops. One store is in the middle of closing his physical shop, one recently moved to a smaller and less rent space (his third such move in fifteen years), another has changed its focus and concentrates on only one subject matter. All are trying to survive and live their used bookstore dream. It is certainly a time to readjust one’s business plan. Actually I’ve changed my plan multiple times throughout the years. One has to in this market. I’m in the middle of adapting another change but frankly I’m not sure which way to go or how to handle things.

OCUB has met multiple goals that I set over the years. Many were simple such as keeping it open my first year. The early days were a struggle because no one was coming in. I constantly changed the Main Street window display so those passing by would notice that someone different is running the store. I constantly added inventory. Daily. Something I still do. I had to work an extra year at my previous employment to cover store bills. That was hard because I was leaving a job I loved but it was time to move on. It was a leap of faith to believe the store would start paying for itself. But it did!

We recovered from moving from Main Street – no one wants to leave Main Street! – to the MarbleWorks. It took several years for customers to find the store but they did. We could expand and by rights we should. But it would mean higher costs. I don’t want to make that jump. The store is maxed but yet the size is doable when I’m working alone.

We are hanging in. But soon a decision will need to be made.

Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world! – Neil Gaiman

A Library to Dream Of

“On a cloudy day, when the dim dance of the firelight and the warmth of the sconces are not enough, the books shed their own form of light. By the hundreds, they fill the shelves that stretch across every inch of exposed wall. They rise up to the ceiling, warriors of an impenetrable army, encircling my over-sized armchair and keeping me safe as they whisper their stories softly in my ear.” – Kelseyleigh Reber, If I Resist

“A library of mostly unread books is far more inspiring than a library of books already read. There’s nothing more exciting than finishing a book, and walking over to your shelves to figure out what you’re going to read next.” – Gabe Habash, The Wonderful and Terrible Habit of Buying Too Many Books, PWxyz (news blog of Publishers Weekly), February 16, 2012

“How can you be bored? There are so many books to read!” – Liailah Giftry Akita, Pearls of Wisdom: Great Mind

img_0590Those are statements book people can relate to. To own a used bookstore is over the top though. Seriously how can it not be when you are surrounded by books – on the shelves, in boxes, or neatly piled throughout the store? And knowing new inventory comes in just about every day. What titles will be found?  To catch a slight glimpse of the personality of the giver and their library. I was speaking to a dealer a couple of weeks ago and he told me he jumps into new arrivals as soon as they come in. He can’t help himself and doesn’t want to be disciplined to finish a box he’s started. I, on the other hand, glance through the new boxes but make myself go back to the box I’ve been working in before I start another one. Well, most of the time.

What about books leaving the store? Of course it is exciting to sell a book knowing each is heading out on a new adventure. Well, let me tell you I recently had the pleasure – and what a pleasure it was! – to shelf a library for a new house. My eyes got wide when I heard of the request. How much fun was that going to be? Hannah and I didn’t know the woman placing this request but through our conversations we came up with a description of what we thought the owner of such a library would be: a world traveler, open-minded, lover of life, diverse interests but mainly a wonderful, down-to-earth woman. Then we got to scour our shelves and fill boxes that would make an amazing library for such a reader. A broad range of titles, authors, book colors and genre. We had a blast. Once the books were in place we received an invitation to view this library. We were so proud of those books. How good they looked in their new home and they knew it. They were certainly standing tall.  Hannah and I, of course, tucked in a book to represent ourselves in this new library. Hannah’s book was Beatrix Potter – The Complete Tales. My contribution was Parini’s,  The Last Station (of course). And yea, we feel we were accurate in our description of her. 🙂

“I never understood people who don’t have bookshelves.” – George Plimpton