This weekend we visited another independent bookstore with the intent to buy a few (or more) books to add to our inventory. I love to see how differently bookstores are designed. We visited one in Philadelphia a couple of months ago that was very orderly -- the shelves were handmade wooden boxes stacked up to the ceiling and most of the inventory faced out. The grid-like structure was pleasing and tidy, if not a little Brady Bunch. The seller knew the worth of his books. We spent about $160 there, and left with a bag full of books for our store (and ourselves ... not everything makes it to the shelves here!). We didn't feel like we'd received any kind of bargain, but were happy to get the books we did.
Saturday's bookstore was inside half of a house. The door had a hand-written note taped to it that read, "I'm out, but come on in and browse. I'll be back in a minute." When we walked inside the owner was there, and had just forgotten to take the note off the door. "Hey, hi, welcome. There are books in all four rooms here, if you have any questions, just ask."
I hit the fiction first, and had an armload of books before I could get to the section marked "Affordable Shakespeare." The poetry section spanned two entire cases. We talked a lot with the owner of the store, and he invited us to have a look at the books upstairs that "just didn't fit on the downstairs shelves yet." He let us have first crack at what was up there, which was generous of him. In our conversations, we realized we were both not making any money in the bookstore business and our intents were similar - to get books moving and get people reading. I found some old Edward Albee paperbacks, a huge selection of John Updike paperbacks, some Kurt Vonnegut, a really old and yellowing pulp-ish edition of "Cannery Row" by Steinbeck, and several New Directions paperbacks. I get excited about old book cover design as well as content.
This morning I sat on the floor of the bookstore and priced the new books and stacked them according to genre so they can be shelved this afternoon. I found an unfinished crossword puzzle inside a children's book (all about teddy bears and kangaroos who start a circus), and the copy of the Vonnegut was well-loved by the original owners. They carefully "preserved" the cover by coating it with clear tape. There's so much to stocking an independent bookstore that I love - the smell of acid-ridden paperbacks, the Ex Libris stamp variety of book ownership, the little notes written in margins, the ephemera left between pages. I really enjoy finding books that I know customers who frequent the store will be interested in, too.
We spent about $140 in the independent bookstore we visited on Saturday, and we left a box of encouragements (Want one? Email me! They are free.), and sold the owner some used DVDs. "Oooh, the money is just flowing all over the place!" he said. We laughed, all in on the joke.
I'm working on the unfinished crossword, and filled out the "co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons" (Gary Gygax) and "Old NYC club birthplace of Punk" (CBGB). Harvesting for fodder? Six letters. _ _ Y I N G.