Monday, February 14, 2011

Bookstore roadtrip, Pt. 3.

To continue our epic journey through southern Oregon's bookstores.

We left More Fun after a long talk with Scott. Next up, Shakespeare Books, and down the street from that Antiquarian Books. Both stores specialize in the kind of 'collector' books that Linda and I pay no attention to.

We have shelves behind the counter at the Bookmark where we place the "older" books; books that look kind of vintage and such. But we price most of them very modestly, and figure that it's mostly about the appearance and atmosphere.

The second store, I sort of said, "I see you don't have any mysteries or science fiction."

The clerk nearly curled her lip, but managed with great effort to say, "No, we let the other guys do that," and pointed us to a bookstore out the back door and down the alley.

(I appreciate the effort it took not to curl her lip in disdain -- I recognized it..._)

We found the Book Exchange a block away.

It seems like every town has one of these stores -- they often even have "Exchange" in the title.
They were the going model 20 years ago. But times have changed, and most of these stores haven't changed with them, and so they are slowly disappearing.

This store actually traded straight. She offered 20% in trade, which is slightly less than what we offer, but no money needed to be spent.

"There's nothing like FREE to get more customers..." she said.

I just shook my head. This is the second time I've heard that sentiment. On the coast I had an owner say, "I couldn't charge for trade. I'd lose all my customers!" To which I'd said, "You mean, all the ones who don't spend money?"

Still, they seem happy enough to do it. I will say though, none of these "exchanges" look prosperous to me. They seem like they're just scraping by....

I did ask her if she ever thought to charge a bit with every transaction. "Oh, no," she said. "It's way too complicated. The other exchange store does that, but my employees would never figure it out."

"Then you need a simpler formula or smarter employees," I said. At which point Linda herded me away from counter. (Really, it didn't come across as mean, or anything -- and the lady laughed at the "smarter employees" crack.)

That was pretty much it for Ashland. The Soundpeace Bookstore was all new age; and there were a few books in Paddington Station, a gift store, mostly Shakespeare. What was interesting to me, was they put most of their books on little book standups that were emblazoned "Quirky." As you know, I've used the word "Quirky" to describe my own selection. I wish I had asked them where they got those standups.

On our way out of town, we looked in the windows of Quality Books in Talent, which was another of those 'exchanges.'

We drove on down the Brookings, and checked in at a Beachfront motel; they had 'ocean' front units, and 'beachfront' units. The 'beachfront' units were 30.00 more, which we took. The next morning, we realized that there was only a few feet of beach and a slight angle difference...

In Brookings, we visited Words and Pictures, which we do every trip. Nice older woman who has great taste in books. For a small new bookstore, I think she has great inventory. I asked her if she worked from lists, or had a formula for picking books. "No, whatever looks good."

The back three fourths of the store was a gallery. Personally, I'd probably expand the bookstore section, but...obviously, the art was just as important to her.

Still, it was interesting to see how many really good books she could pack into a small space.

We also visited The Book Dock, which is right on the wharf. A small building, with a fairly small selection of books. A very pleasant woman who talked about her store and her life; which was refreshing after meeting so many closed mouthed owners.

The next day, on our way back to Bend, we checked out Earl B. books. This store had moved 3 times since we started these trips (4 if you count his move from La Grande). This incarnation was smaller, and stacked with books.

Again, the inventory was very good. He talked about he was going to quit taking in "fluff."

This is the kind of smaller store, packed with good titles but manageable for one person, that I can see myself doing in my dotage.

And that was it. Way more bookstores than we normally find. I wasn't taking notes, which if I'd known we'd be visiting so many bookstores, I probably would've done.

It's fun to have a goal on these trips. It seems to add structure and purpose to what might just be simple meandering. And visiting bookstores is extremely pleasant. I learn something every trip, some insight or trick or technique I've never thought of. The bookstores are all different, though they have similar features.

I think we'll keep doing these bookstore roadtrips.

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