Frequently Asked Questions About Our Bookstore…

This post is in response to requests from commenters Chase and Lisa to hear more about the day-to-day operation of our bookstore (sparked by the poll for my 150th post).  For those who are unaware, for the past ten years, my dad and I have co-owned a bookstore which specializes in antiquarian and used hardcovers.  Here are some of the questions we hear quite often, with answers (some actually spoken, some just thought in our heads as we think “You moron!”).

1. Where do you get your books?  My dad goes out and mugs little old ladies!  Most of the books are brought into the store, every day, 3 or 4 times a day: people die and their family doesn’t want their books, or empty-nesters are downsizing to move to a smaller place.  We also have a fair number of “street people”, who pick up books in their travels and then sell them to us.  We go to local book sales, and the big Sussex Flea Market, and occasionally, church and yard sales.  Very few of our books are donated to us…we buy them!

2. What’s your oldest book?  I don’t know…let me check the database!  We are constantly adding to our stock, and that information could be totally different today than it was yesterday.  It’s probably something from the 18th century, although we have had a couple from the 17th century.

3. Is all your stock listed online?  No.  We have some 15,000 books including 3 or 4 thousand waiting to be listed in storage…we only list the rarer, higher-priced books online (currently about 4000) because of the time involved.  To give you an idea of how long it takes, we upload about 50-75 new listings a week. 

4. I’ve got this really old book, but it’s been chewed by squirrels, run over by a bulldozer, and immersed in a mud puddle…do you want to buy it?  Only if they were three-toed Siberian squirrels. NO!  Throw it out! 

5. Do you have any [pause] novels?  I take the “customer” to the large double-sided shelves which house some 3000 works of fiction.  The customer still has a puzzled look on his/her face.  No, I mean NOVELS!  At this point, it occurs to me that the customer is looking for paperbacks, at which point I direct them to the store down the street.

6. Do you get a lot of customers from the cruise ships?  No…they don’t make it up the street without being roped into the shore excursions…we call the handful who do come in “the escapees.”  There are also very few readers on cruise ships…cruisers are usually “mall people” far more interested in souvenir T-shirts than good books (this is a generalization, I admit, but it’s based on ten years of observation!).  We average 2-3 visitors for every 3000-passenger cruise ship.

7. I remember this book from when I was a kid…it was blue, about a cat, and about so big [gesturing with hands].  Do you have it?  Not sure…was the cat long or short-haired?  I’m going to need a title or an author’s name (at the very least) to find that elusive book from your childhood.

8. I’ve got a copy of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and it’s really old…I think it’s a first edition and it’s even signed!  How much to you want to give me for it?  Nothing.  Dickens’ work was pirated by the Americans to the point that he refused to do readings in North America…there are literally thousands of copies of each of his books out there…the odds of the average Joe having a first edition is extremely low!  Many of them have what is known as a “facsimile signature” on them…this is a copy of the author’s signature printed in the book by the publisher…he didn’t actually write it!  I have three boxes of Dickens books in my back room!  Ditto for Kipling, Scott, and Stevenson books… 

9. You’ve got a lot of books…have you read them allYes, every last one, except for the golf ones…I hate golf!  No.  I have other things to do with my time: evaluating, listing, photographing and shelving those books.

10. I paid $40 for this book at [insert name of new book store here] last month.  Why don’t you want to give me $25 for it?  Because new books are a lot like new cars…worthless once you drive them off the lot.  I can probably buy 300 copies of your $40 book online for a buck apiece!

11. Is this a libary?  No.  All of our books are for sale.  The “libary” is down the street.

12. How much are your books?  They’re priced according to size: thin ones are $10, but really thick ones cost $150!  Our book prices range from $6 to $2000, depending on rarity and condition.  Prices are marked in pencil inside the front covers. 

13. What do you do with books you don’t want?  We donate them to the local library or book sales held by local charities.

14. [phone inquiry] I’m moving next week, and I’ve got a whole bunch of books.  How much do you pay for them?  I don’t know…I haven’t seen what you have!  Bring them in, and if we want them, we’ll make you an offer!     

15. Do you like working here?  Yes.  I’ve met lots of interesting people from around the world, including a few famous ones.  I learn something new every day, and I am surrounded by beautiful old books in a gorgeous old building.  It’d be even better if I made money!

Independent used bookstores are disappearing every day…we need readers to survive!  Please go into your local store and buy a book (or two) today!  Thank you!

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52 Comments

Filed under books, rants, satire

52 responses to “Frequently Asked Questions About Our Bookstore…

  1. Wonderful post, Wendy. I’m amazed by how much you know about your industry–I guess your 10 years of experience would explain that!

    I laughed out loud at #11. Is this a library, indeed.

    As for #8, I’m more than a little sad to hear that Kipling’s works were pirated.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Maura…it was fun to write! Pirating was par for the course for any (popular) book that came out in the last half of the 19th century…there were no strong copyright laws then. Sad… Wendy

  2. We have a great independent bookstore near my home. It is housed in an old home complete with fireplace and big comfy chairs. I absolutely love going there and purchasing books…I might move in if things get too crazy around my place. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind. I could help the patrons and make coffee and stuff. Ah, to dream… Hugs, Diane

  3. duke1959

    You are so right about books they are so special. By the way thanks for your help with my blog. The traffic has increased greatly!

  4. duke1959

    you are right about the value of books. just because they seem old doesn’t mean they are worth anything. I’m old and hey!

  5. What a lovely post, Wendy – I feel like I am getting to know your bookstore and can imagine what it looks like! I’d love to come and nose around there, and have a cuppa with the owners! I can’t help thinking about “You’ve Got Mail” when I read about your bookstore, although I know you sell used and antique books.
    Have a lovely weekend, Wendy! xx

  6. I love this post. I love old book bookstores. I love books, period. I have some old children’s books that I know have more sentimental value than anything else. The illustrations are amazing. I will keep these books forever.

  7. Thanks, Wendy, for info on your book store. Meeting all kinds of different people would be an interesting part of owning a business like yours. I bet that your personable nature really fits well with your store.

    By the way, I have that big, blue book about cats. Or was it a big book about blue cats? Blue book about big cats?

    Take care,

    Chase

    • You’re welcome, Chase…talking to other people who are nuts about books is a fun part of the store! Was that book about cats written by a woman? I think her name started with M…? Wendy

  8. Did they ask you FAQ #15 before or after FAQ#1-14?

    We get all kinds of interesting vehicles questions. They give us a list of their wants for a vehicle and then tell us what they want to spend. Hardly ever are they in the same ballpark.

    • Jeanne, I hardly ever get asked #15…most people just assume it’s a dream job because they think I’m sitting around reading all day! It’s true…people hardly ever want to pay what something is worth… Wendy

      • If you could sit and read all day it truly would be a dream job but what would pay the bills?

        I always thought owning a bookstore/coffee shop would be my dream job until I realized I would probably wouldn’t have any time to do what I love, drink coffee and read books.

        Maybe if I changed it to a bookstore/wine bar the customers wouldn’t care if I was sitting around drinking and reading. Maybe I wouldn’t care either but then we are back to #1 What would pay the bills?

        Loved learning more about your bookstore!

      • Thanks, Jeanne…I prefer tea to coffee! Wendy

  9. I LOOOOVVVE old bookstores… (old books, AND old stores!) – I think I’d spend all day, every day just browsing!

  10. Going to a local booksale tomorrow!

  11. Thanks, this was informative and funny!

    Laughed out loud at “the escapees” comment. Now I have another question: What cruise ships? It makes it sound like you live in some nice warm tropical place!

  12. Chicago has some wonderful book stores. Some are friendly and others make you stand up straighter and whisper. Printers row is a wonderful street to mender down. O’Gara and Wilson is our oldest bookstore tracing its lineage back to 1882.
    I don’t own a lot of book these days–moving them was difficult over the years, and I love my Kindle for reading “penny dreadfuls” as my dad would call them.
    I do treasure our Zane Grey books, Christmas books Joe held on to from his childhood, and a few of my own childhood favorites. Naturally I have also held on to a few Cole loved as a little kid.
    Sounds like your book store has a special nook in your community–are you the local “book lady?”

  13. LOL @ all those strikeouts Wendy!! Another great post!

    My favorite bookstore here in book-challenged Goa (nobody reads here…everyone’s too busy being beach-bums!!), is an independently owned store called Literati. You would love it…it’s run by a friend who used to be a lawyer and is housed in an old Portuguese bungalow with a gorgeous garden, and a cafe :)) It’s my own slice of book-heaven :) They have a section for used books too.

    As for me…Life on Planet Earth would be unthinkable without a good book to escape into :)

    Hugs, H.

  14. I wasn’t thinking to myself, I hope to God you haven’t read them all….Hilarious…

    I would imagine that you have had some exciting “finds” over the years. It’s nice that you and your dad work at this together.

    • Hi Laura: Glad you enjoyed the post! I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read every book…there are so many different interests and topics out there! Not to mention the amount of time it would take… Working with my dad is okay most of the time, except when he forgets that I’m a co-owner! Wendy

  15. Hippie Cahier

    I really enjoyed this post.

    I love golf, but I don’t like reading about it. Or teeing off. I’m no good with a driver. But other than that, I love golf.

    I either didn’t know or didn’t remember knowing about Dickens being pirated. He had a lot of gripes about North America. I’ll remember not to get too excited if I come across his autograph at the Goodwill.

    • Hi Hippie: Glad you liked the post… Not only do I suck at golf, but I would rather watch grass grow than be forced to watch it! Dickens was a pretty interesting guy, and still very readable today…unfortunately, almost everybody who has old volumes of his is under the mistaken impression that they’re worth a lot!

      Thanks for reading! Wendy

  16. How did you and your Dad end up in the business? I so admire people with the nerve to take the chance on their ideas.

    • Well, oma…it’s an interesting story: my dad was a flea marketer for more than 35 years, and always sold books along with the other small collectibles. Just over ten years ago, a guy who had a bookstore came in to the flea market and struck up a conversation with Dad. This guy had a store, but didn’t like keeping regular hours (too much other stuff to do – sports, travelling, and he also sold online). He offered to let Dad come into his space, sell the other guy’s books at a 50% split, and sell Dad’s own stock as well. We did that for a few months, until finally the other guy took his books back to his warehouse and went online only (he recently gave up his business, and we purchased a lot of his 25,000+ books). We started in a 100 sq. foot space with about 3000 books…we now have 600 sq. feet with about 15,000 books (some in storage). I got involved in the business since I had computer knowledge (Dad had none!), although until a year ago, I always had another job as well (my share of the business is sweat equity – it will be mine when Dad retires or dies). I maintain our website, take the photos of the books online, and do a fair amount of book scouting (I have a knack for that if I do say so myself!). Another one of my responsibilities is shelving and displays…those are not my favourite things! Glad you enjoyed the post! Wendy

  17. So fun to hear more about the bookstore and your Dad. In my mind I had imagined your bookstore to be something like the “Shop around the Corner” from the movie You’ve Got Mail. Only a version more for grown-ups. I love that your bookstore is located in and old home. How fun!

  18. As a retired librarian and the good friend of a bookstore owner, I absolutely loved #7, and #9. Very familiar questions. My library customers read more books than I did, they had more time.
    And #11….well they always wanted to buy my books, “No, we’re a library.” Hope you keep going, I know independent booksellers are having a hard time, my friend no longer has his store.

    • Hi Jeanne: Glad you enjoyed it! Our bookstore is pretty much a labour of love, although we’ve built up a pretty good customer base over the years…if we were in it for the money, we would have closed a long time ago! Wendy

  19. I love these types of bookstores. I’ve gotten rid of lots of books this way, and found some really great one-of-a-kind books for my boy that he’s really enjoyed. I don’t often buy books, but when I do, it’s at one of these stores.

    Note: I had a book from the turn of the last century about Phrenology. It was in really good condition and a real curiosity item (for me). I found it at a garage sale many years ago. Unfortunately, it was one of those many things I had to get rid of in my latest cross-country move.

    • Hi Koreen: I’m glad you support stores like ours…it’s a shame you had to get rid of that Phrenology books…sometimes they’re worth a fair amount due to the subject matter! Wendy

  20. Now I’m curious about where you live that the cruise ships would be nearby. I love to browse in an old bookstore. Something magical.

    • Hi Colleen: I live in Hammond River, New Brunswick, which is near Saint John, New Brunswick, where our bookstore is…you’re welcome any time! If you’d like to learn more about where I live, please check out the posts in my response to Lisa’s comment above… Wendy

  21. I’m really glad you posted this. I’ve always wondered about the store!

    I love the line about people who take cruises being “mall people.” We used to live in Florida, and we could have taken a cruise pretty cheaply (no airfare or hotel, and we could have gone in the off season), but I always thought it sounded boring. “Hey, look, water!”

    • Glad you liked it, Todd! I’ve got a bit of inside knowledge about cruising…I spent 2 1/2 years working in a call center selling/servicing cruises for a major national travel agency… I can’t really see myself on a cruise…I am not a big traveller (unless I went to Europe – without kids, of course!). Having no money kinda makes that impossible! Wendy

  22. Great FAQ! Thank you so much for taking the time out. I have been curious too. So what is the most expensive book you have in your store?

    • Glad you enjoyed it, Lin. Right now, our most expensive book is $4000. It is a signed, inscribed first Canadian edition of “Anne of Ingleside” (a book in the Anne of Green Gables series) with a dustjacket. It is quite rare, because L.M. Montgomery rarely signed her books. The person who owns it is the widow of a man whose mother was a friend of the author’s. She had no idea how much it was worth when she brought it in! We’re selling it on consignment for her. Wendy

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