Beast Features in Used Bookstores
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I am a resident of Kansas City and am just itching to open a used book store in the City Market or Crossroads area (though this has no real purpose for my post). ANYWAYS...what I am wondering is what all of you love about the used bookstores you visit so that I can make a ridiculously long list of things to consider when opening. And there is no need to mention coffee and tea, yes, it will be provided, and yes, it will be free!
lots and lots of books :)
Good organization is nice - alphabetical by author within subject categories. I have a want list, and although I love browsing, I appreciate being able to look for specific authors, too. Especially if I'm short of time.
I think the Beast Feature should be a resident cat, but on the other hand, some customers may be allergic.
I agree - cats are important! Some of my favourite used bookstores have cats. A resident dog would be okay, though, as long as it's friendly.
Comfy chairs. A footstool or two. A side table (or even orange crate) to set your cup on.
My favorite bookstore was The Tattered Cover in Denver, Colorado. You could find anything there. It was large with several floors and you could sink into couches to read in private corners all over the place. The discount rack had great selections too! My husband and I used to go there on Friday nights.
It didn't have a cat, but that would be a great addition.
Unless the shop is very small please consider security cameras. It drives me crazy when I go into second-hand book shops, decide to take a look upstairs and am then accosted by the owner insisting I leave my bag with him - presumably because he thinks I am going to steal his books. It's at that point that I usually leave. If s/he doesn't trust me with his/her books why on earth would I trust him/her with my bag and its contents? After all, his books are insured; my phone/purse/medication/driving licence etc are not.
Space and light! You need room to move. You could have the greatest selection of subjects I'm interested in but if I can't readily get to them among the shelves and see down on the bottom shelves I will turn around and walk out.
Cats are a necessity. Don't worry about who's allergic. There aren't enough of them to put a dent in your business. Most book lovers are attracted to cats.
Someone at the front desk who magically knows everything they have or don't have (or else a computer system that can look it up for you.) Alphabetized book racks, and each book in its correct category.
>11 I haven't lived in Denver for a long time (more than 20 years) so I didn't realize there is a new Tattered Cover. I should have guessed...
What is it like?
There are three Tattered Covers and they are all wonderful! Check out their website. The downtown warehouse one of course is great, the one in the old theater is SO fun. The last one is in a plain old mall, a big box of a store, and I was convinced there was no way it could be cool but low and behold, it also is awesome. Some great decorator managed to pull it off. Pics on their website.
My two favorite used book stores have a character, a charm, to themselves.
One is situated in an old bar from the early 1900s. They left the bar as their counter, but the rest of the shelves are spaced about the area. They even have a "dungeon" area, from former prohibition times, where the science fiction and fantasy are shelved.
The other has placed their shelves in almost a maze style, creating a unique mystery atmosphere to the shopping experience.
I have been going back and forth whether or not to do subcategories. There are so many cross genres books out there. I suppose there are some pretty obvious genre books (westerns, romance, etc) but I am actually hoping to avoid some of those. I don't want 1,000s harlequin and jove books.
I will have two resident cats and a dog. And who knows what else in time. :) I will be living above the store, so there is a good change they will spend a lot of time upstairs.
Surprised no-one has mentioned "NO MUSIC" - although in my experience second-hand bookshops do not suffer from this as much as the normal ones.
I suppose there are some pretty obvious genre books (westerns, romance, etc) but I am actually hoping to avoid some of those. I don't want 1,000s harlequin and jove books.
I think you need to consider what sort of demographic you are appealing to. Most of the used bookstores I frequent wouldn't even consider buying those sorts of books. They also don't buy bestsellers, as they're a drug on the market.
A place for kids to sit and look and play with the books. Heck, a place for adults to sit and look and play with the books.
re: categories. as lilithcat says, consider your demographic but I'd add also consider the size of your stock. You could leave fiction as one big lump, organized by author, but as the stock grows customers may get frustrated having to browse the whole works when all they want is one cozy mystery they haven't read before.
I'm assuming that you do plan to have categories for non-fiction?
Alphabetization is always nice for the fiction section. And make sure all the titles are visible - pulling out the front row of books on a shelf to see the back row is frustrating.
The biggest turn-off for me in a bookstore is the use of air fresheners or incense. There is only one used bookstore in my rural area, and it is almost inaccessible to me because I can't go in for more than a couple of minutes without getting a headache.
I lived in Denver in the mid-80s - I SO miss the Tattered Cover.
We got a Borders in our downtown area that resulted in several nearby used bookstores closing. Now the Borders is gone, too...
Please, please alphabetize! Also, please arrange the continuation of sections as "intuitively" as possible. Maybe ask a few outside opinions when a section of books can no longer be tidily contained and you are considering options.
As was already stated, I would give very little shelf space, if any, to Harlequins and, particularly, bestsellers. I really doubt you'd make much money on them. Friends of the Library sales get lots of those kinds of books.
Most used books stores keep the valuable stuff separate from the regular collections. I am sure this is a theft deterrent, but it also works well for folks who want something really special and are willing to pay for it, but don't want to have to sift through all the other books to get to the treasure they seek.
I appreciate genre sections, myself. I've never been in a used bookstore with a cozy mystery section, but if I'd had - I'd be a regular.
A store pet is a lovely thing, but I've had to leave stores prematurely because of my severe cat allergy... Cat allergies tend to be more severe (and more comman) than dog or bird allergies. (I'm allergic to all three to some degree).
I really appreciate these things:
1. Ridiculously low prices so I can buy whatever I want, no holds barred.
2. An eclectic mix of books that does not include bestsellers that can be gotten elsewhere. I love finding books by midlist authors, authors of whom I've never heard, and books in translation from other langauges.
3. Highlighted books (not with magic marker, but with a note by the store owner or employee telling whay is good about that book. Perhaps even a special shelf of books that you like the best.
4. A bargain bin
5. Allowing a customer to wishlist books and then contacting them by email when that bok arrives.
6. Neat, orderly shelves arranged by genre with each shelf holding books alphabetically. Books also need to be in prime condition. No torn covers, writing inside. Bookcrossing labels, neatly affixed are okay, though! :)
7. One day of the week in which I can purchase two books for the price of one. My local bookstore does this in exchange for a $25 gift to charity.
How are those for starters?
Best of luck!
4. A bargain bin
Those are dangerous!
One of my local used bookstores has boxes of free books. Often, people will come in with stacks of books to sell and don't want to haul the rejects back home. So the store puts them outside by the front door and you just take what you want.
As was already stated, I would give very little shelf space, if any, to Harlequins and, particularly, bestsellers. I really doubt you'd make much money on them. Friends of the Library sales get lots of those kinds of books.
My local FOTL bookstore does *not* give much shelf space to those. That's why it's my favorite place to buy used books. Their selection is terrific. Their prices are awesome!
So the store puts them outside by the front door and you just take what you want.
That kind of cheapens the store, in my opinion.
ETA: Not that I don't like free books (as a Bookcrosser!)...
What happened at one FOTL bookstore (not mine) was that they would throw the books they didn't want into a dumpster. Then book store visitors would browse through the dumpster. The store finally stopped doing that. Thank goodness!!
A staff that's well read enough that they can converse knowledgeably about a large percentage of the books you sell.
Offer cash, not just trade, for books people bring in.
I like bookstores that are a hodgepodge of just everything (minus the best-selling crap), but I also like bookstores that are intelligently curated. You'll need to decide which way you want to go.
The first place I go in any used bookstore is the $1 table. Can't resist those cheap books.
The most important thing, though, is attitude. If you let the browser browse, and sit and read for awhile, without glaring at him or her, and you have nice chairs and free/cheap coffee... well, I'd be a regular!
BTW, if you keep the cat indoors, and clean, and not shedding hair everywhere, most of us cat-allergic people won't be too affected by it.
My first stop when I'm traveling is the local authors section of the bookstores.
Pets seem to be a major thread here, so: Allow dog walkers. If you are going to have pets inside, then a dog walker should be allowed inside. I am forturnate to live in a pet-friendly town that allows you to walk your dog most anywhere. Poop-bag posts are everywhere for free. Many of the businesses allow pets inside. So if your animals are socialized, I think it would be a nice thing; and you would pick up more "street traffic" (provided there are a lot of dog walkers around your area).
As to books: try to keep odd, out-of-print and hard-to-find books in stock. Most used bookstores I go into are filled with only the recent past years' best selling mass market paperbacks. Boring.
If you are going to have pets inside, then a dog walker should be allowed inside.
I'd say that depends on the dog and the store layout. Most used bookstores I go to have aisles that are not compatible with large dogs, particularly large, friendly ones with waggly tails.
When I'm traveling I look online and first choose to visit stores that state dogs are allowed. Just for the fun of it. But of course that is just a personal, so you have to know your own demographics.
We had a Great Pyrenees at the store I worked in. She was a cuddler. Except she didn't like kids (except for my stepdaughter). But neither did the store's owner.
Hmm...Beast features. Let's see...
Cats (several) are expected. Cat food, in little dishes, scattered about the store, is really hardcore. As for Dogs, the more ancient the better. Just one. The kind that barely acknowledges a patron when they scratch the ear of the poor old mutt. Maybe a decrepit black lab with a pure white chin, that snoozes 23.5 hours a day.
Make sure you are filthy rich and are only using the store as a tax write-off.
Ensure that you have oh, let's say about 100,000 volumes, all categorized and alphabetized.
A musty location with character, preferably a barn or at least a warehouse or old mill.
Play NPR or the soundtrack to Oh Brother Where Art Thou. Constantly. Avoid Metallica or the Ramones at all costs.
Store credit only. Do not purchase stock. They are comprised of moldy, yellowing cellulose and trace amounts of cheap ink, and have virtually no monetary value.
Staffing: a young Goth chick, a fat 40-something male that looks like Ignatious P. Reilly, or an ancient white-haired spinster. A twerpy collegiate guy with a tweed jacket with elbow patches, who calls his parents momma and pah-pa - is a plus.
In addition to microbial volatile organic compound odors, those of herbal tea or certain incense odors. Avoid Patchouli. Its smell is an aphrodasiac to males and will distract them from book-buyning.
Extemely droll literary quotes tacked on tiny yellowed strips of paper, thoughout the shelves. Printed by
typewriter is a huge plus.
A few nick knacks are ok. Fake Southwestern pottery, stuffed squirrels, Maxwell Parrish repros - all appropriate.
Lighting and heat are purely optional.
I think I've covered it.
Y'know, one of the charms of a used bookstore is when it's DISorganized. And you have to sort through boxes of odd books on the floor, or reach behind an inconvenient post to pull out an old sci-fi novel by an author you haven't read since high school. Browsing in a used bookstore is always more fun than actually buying. Especially because, after I buy it, I usually just place it on the towering mountain of TBR. Or should I say TBNR.
>39 Lighting and heat are purely optional.
Not quite: a well-organised secondhand bookshop has a single-bar electric fire (bonus points for paraffin instead of electricity!) and a low-wattage lightbulb somewhere near the cash register. For the rest, especially in winter, it relies on natural light filtering in through dirty windows largely obscured by piles of books.
Music: BBC Radio 3 or local equivalent, turned down to the level of inaudibility, played through a battery-powered transistor radio precariously supported on a pile of books.
It's also of great importance that the building is constructed in defiance of the usual laws of architecture and geometry, in particular being arranged so that no two rooms are at the same level and so that whichever way you got from Room 1 to Room 2, there is no obvious way of getting from Room 2 to Room 1.
Do you think any architects ever say, "This will make a great secondhand bookstore some day"?
I have mild cat allergies, but as long as the whole shop isn't coated in cat hair, I'm usually okay with a bookstore cat.
I've visited many secondhand bookstores, and the things I like best tend to be a wide selection of books, a comfy place to sit, and decent value for trade-ins.
A selection of new things that are "gift-quality" and gift certificates. I think this is where Half-Price books has managed to be profitable. I usually skip over their "gift" section (journals, little games and puzzlers, and some niche books which are new but publisher overruns), but I have more than once used their gift certificate for my aunt's birthday, who mostly reads Nora Roberts and Grisham, and I have absolutely no idea what she hasn't read (how could I? no really...). In a down economy people don't mind buying "over-run" items at a discount as gifts, as long as they don't show any wear. And people really don't mind a gift certificate to pick up some books that they want.
As for cats and other small beasts - If you do have them around you have to make sure to be very clean. Like dust and vacuum every day. And the vacuum should be one designed for pet dander. I don't mind pets and I'm not allergic, but I find an unexpected encounter with the fur of a strange animal to be rather disconcerting. You may know that your pets are vaccinated and clean and bug free, but I don't.
And I think most pet food reeks to high heaven. I avoid that aisle in grocery stores. If you must have food or a litter box in the store it should definitely be in a back room that is closed to guests. Some people have a very sensitive sense of smell, especially pregnant women (I can testify to that). And pregnant women are instructed to avoid litter boxes as well.
These may seem like little things, but the last thing you want is to get a bad reputation at the local play dates. That could be lethal.
I think the Tattered Cover in Denver in an old movie theater is the coolest thing I've ever seen, but there is a new and unused fire station here in Folsom CA where we have a glut of fire stations for some reason, that I think would make the coolest bookstore and coffee house. Imagine the tower where the hoses dry with windows installed, etc. Also I have seen several restaurants in old gas stations, as I'm sure you all have. I think they would be cool bookstores. There is a bookstore in Nevada City, CA in an old strip mall kind of place, altho it looks more like an old motel to me, that is a bookstore - each old room a different section of the bookstore. I love all of these ideas of buildings that were designed for a specific purpose being turned into something different like a bookstore or restaurant. Have you seen others? They look like so much fun.
A toilet that patrons can use. Lack of one, particularly if you serve coffee, will limit the amount of time patrons will browse.
35 > I'll let you have a dog in my store if you agree to pay for everything the cursed animal pees on and can prove you've got insurance to cover everyone he bites. (No reflection on dogs, generally, but little kids WILL put their hands where they don't belong.)
#49 Thanks for the warning - that's one store I'll be avoiding for life (presumably the 'cursed' cats are welcome to spray and crap on whatever they wish?)
> 50 -- No, actually. I'd have a store cat. SHE would be the only animal allowed inside the store. I wouldn't have a tomcat in the store. I won't even have one in my house, reason being they DO make messes in inappropriate places. In my experience, female cats don't do such things.
But if you mix dogs and cats in the store, you're going to have chaos. Don't try to tell me it won't happen. It'd be no problem if you had the same set of animals, used to living together. But when everybody's a stranger, it's a butt-sniffing meet 'n' greet fest, and there's gonna be problems. If I got a cat in the store, there won't be no dogs.
I think the ideal bookshop animal would be an elephant. Plenty of reach for awkwardly-placed shelves, good at gentle manipulation of delicate books, able to balance on a kick-stool, and never forgets where to find a book. Would need a rather large litter tray, though...
As I see it, the problem with allowing non-resident animals into a bookstore (other than the obvious danger of conflict with any resident animals) is that you will inevitably find it necessary to limit the number/type/behavior of animals allowed in the store. But that's going to piss off the St. Bernard owner if you say "small dogs welcome", or the 6th person with an animal if you limit the number to 5, or the live parrot owner if you only allow dead parrots. So it's much safer to say "no non-resident animals".
> 56 -- 100 percent correct.
I did see an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives the other night where some diner owner had tables and chairs on the sidewalk outside. If you (a dog owner) wanted to sit down and order a meal for yourself, the diner would send a snack from the kitchen for your dog (on a separate plate) with your order, and the dog's name written in ketchup on the plate.
I thought that was a nice touch.
Speaking of beasts, I thought used book stores had
become an Endangered* Species?
*Or so itʻs called by optimists. Pessimists say "Extinct".
I think the majority of the book business is moving away from bricks and mortar and going online. I used to hang at Barnes & Noble, B. Dalton, and one or two of the used-book stores that used to be around town. Today I buy almost exclusively from vendors listed on ABE Books and Alibris. Powell's Books is also very good. Anything Powell's lists in "standard" condition is as good or better than stuff that some bookstores call "fine".
The selection online is astounding, the searches work great, and for the most part the service is swell. Every once in a while I run into some moron who can't sell books, and I keep their names on my "don't order from" list. But there are few of them. Another nice thing about the online searches is that I can read the booksellers remarks on each item that interests me -- and I can often tell by reading those remarks who is an idiot or who is untrustworthy. Experience taught me how, by and by.
Another point is that I have NEVER been burned. I don't know how outfits like ABE can twist arms, but they can. On the few occasions when I've paid for a book I never got or when I ordered a "fine" copy and received a wad of toilet paper, ABE has always gone to bat for me. In those cases, either I get what I paid for or I get a refund, and ABE sees to it that I get it damned quick.
When I think of Barnes & Noble, I think of their deep armchairs and their howling-good snack bar and the people I used to meet in there. They also have a swell magazine rack and a nice selection of paraphernalia. But I LEARN more by shopping online. The search functions are founts of information. Between the online bookstores and Wikipedia and Google, there's just about nothing bookish I can't find for myself. My home-built snack bar (kitchen) is pretty good, too, and there aren't any screaming children underfoot.
The discovery of abebooks was revolutionary for my collection because there are a couple dozen books I had given up on ever finding after 10 - 15 years of looking. abebooks found them for me.
But I still love to go and physically browse.
My favourite used stores all have a $1 or a $2 bin that gets my arms full almost every time I go in. But I end up looking in the regularly priced stacks as well.
So as an example, I found half a dozen $2 books and then stumbled across a 2-volume set of Diary of a Writer by Dostoyevsky for $50. (That was another book that I had been searching on Amazon or abebooks from time to time, but I seem to recall the price was a bit higher than what I ended up paying in person.)
I wasn't psychologically prepared to spend $62 when I walked in the door, but the first $12 spent served to break open the dam of my resistance. There is my strongest suggestion to someone opening a store: have some high-priced items, but also have some low-priced (give-away) prices to get a nice fat buying spree underway.
I rarely even hit used book stores, any more. In New England there are several library sales in the 120,000 to 150,000 volume range. 'An orgy of dirt-cheap books.
I will have a selection of my books available online through Abe. So I think I am okay there. And it really saddens me that people have given up on going to used book stores. I feel like a successful bookstore should offer all their customers the option to order titles, new and used, and have that eclectic collection of slighty used books for cheap (yes, even cheaper than you can find online). Especially with nonfiction, I have to browse through the pages to see if it is worth spending money on. You don't get that buying online.
I totally agree with you. Oh, the books I've found while browsing those dusty shelves! You can't browse the same way online as you can in a bookstore. It's a completely different experience.
I dread the day (may it never come) there's no brick-and-mortar shop for me to browse books in. At least we'll still have libraries. Oh, wait a minute ...
>66: we'll still have libraries
The Man Who Wanted to Smell Books, a short story by Elspeth Davie, concerns a man who remembers what books were like and what they smelt like. He goes into a library (all electronic) to see if they have one...
The smell of used books has changed. When I was a younker, they mostly smelled of tobacco smoke. Today they're apt to smell of any number of things. A few months ago I got one that reeked of garlic. If I was running a used-book store, I think I might administer to each book I shelve a light dusting of talc while fanning the pages with my thumb. I can't believe the talc would hurt anything, but in many cases it would certainly improve the smell.
I'm allergic to it, so I'd have to stay away from your bookstore, too.
I vaguely remember someone telling me that you can buy allergen-free fake dust and cobwebs somewhere (from theatrical suppliers, perhaps?). That might be the answer...
A BOOK WITH GARLIC SMELL!
I once had checked out a book with sweaty smell. It smelled just like high school locker room after P.E. Ick! I tried to read that book, but I couldn't go on. I returned the book to the library and got another copy check out instead. How can the book got that smell, I wonder?
I am very picky about smell of the book when I buy any, new or used.
edited spelling :-P
readings, book club meetings, "meet-ups" for online book clubs. foster book and reading culture!
participation in "freedom to read" week and "privacy week" and other intellectual freedom activities.
> 74 -- or how about some greasey goombah who eats garlic bread while he reads?
I love good used bookstores, but, alas, they are not to be found here. The one in town is run by a miser, who charges half the cover price...but the minimum is $3.50. If i want that tattered Louis L'Amour oldie with a cover price of $.75, I still have to pay $3.50.
And the one time my son offered to trade in a book in near new/fine condition, she offered him a credit for $3.50, but he had to spend $4.00 before he could use his credit...ripoff!!
So, I now do most of my used book shopping online, or at the Habitat For Humanity resale store, where books are $.50...
Oh, my suggestions?
3. Accessible (no books on the lowest shelf where only toddlers and yoga practitioners can reach them)
4. Musty books segregated (allergies)
5. Counter help who has a clue
That's all I can think of...
Although I do sympathize with those who have some idiosyncratic mixed chemical sensitivity, life is much too short to worry about an odor of a book.
Musty = character.
Alpha by author within subjects is so important.
Regarding cats, if you're going to have them PLEASE don't let them pee all over the store. I can't tell you how many used bookstores I've been to with adorable cats and then the whole store smells like a litterbox. It IS possible to have a cat and still keep the store clean enough that someone with mild to moderate allergies can come in. And it's possible to be so dirty that NOBODY can. I've been to both kinds of bookstores. Cleanliness counts!
-Chairs to sit and look at a book, or to inhale that old book smell.
-Soft bell or small windchimes on the door when someone comes in.
-The help wears a monacle or pair of wire-rimmed glasses and says 'Ah....I have just what you need' (either / or)
Yeah! No mention of upper respiratory problems. 'Another fan of old book smell.
I love good used bookstores, but, alas, they are not to be found here. The one in town is run by a miser, who charges half the cover price...but the minimum is $3.50. If i want that tattered Louis L'Amour oldie with a cover price of $.75, I still have to pay $3.50."
I own a used bookstore in Ukiah, CA. The store has been here for around 20 years but I just bought it about 15 months ago. There have been a lot of good comments on this thread, but I'd like to address the one I quoted above. I, too, charge half the cover price for paperback fiction, and I, too, have a minimum, although mine is $2.30, which is probably too low. Please note that that "miser" bookstore owner has to pay rent and utillity bills, and the shelf space that old Louis L'Amour sits on costs money (he has that old Western sitting on it instead of some other book he could sell for $5.00, $6.00 or $7.00 using the same space). The fact is that the 75 cent paperback was priced that way about 40 years ago. If you wanted to buy that paperback new now it would be around $7.50, I'd guess. So what does that $3.50 buy you? The book you want arranged on a shelf where you can find it easily, as opposed to, say, searching through every Goodwill in town so you could buy it for $1.50 (not half of the 75 cents cover price; and is the time you thereby save assuming you even find that book in the Goodwill worth $3.00 to you?) and the pleasure of having a cool old copy. Of course you could take it out of the library (maybe) or get it from Amazon (but not soon enough to wander over to your favorite coffeeshop and start reading right away, and not for half of that 75 cent cover price and who knows what condition an old book like that would be in when ordered sight unseen?). Or you could download it onto your electronic thingamabob (for I must admit I have no idea how much), but you're in a used bookstore so presumably you don't want to or at least would rather not.
If the book is really as tattered as all that maybe he shouldn't have it on his shelf, anyway, although he may find as I have that customers who like the old Westerns don't care about book condition as much as most other customers do, for some reason, and so he may make the same exception I make about book condition for the old Westerns.
Sorry (kind of) for the ramble, but I do recommend that you think through some of the economics that fellow is facing before you decide he's a miser for not being willing (or, probably, able) to stock 38 cent items on his shelves.
Thanks, rocket. A perspective that had not occurred to me. You make sense.
By the way, I meant the post above to be thoughtful and thought provoking, rather than angry or critical. I hope it came out that way or at least that it will be accepted as such now.
My store is old and rambly and was more than a little run down and helter-skelter when I bout it. After 15 months or so, I'm must starting to get it into shape. Addressing some of the other points made here, yes, a comfortable seating area is a must.
And while, alas, I have too many books to consign my lowest shelves to overstock only, what I do is scatter comfortable folding chairs around the store. That makes it much easier for just about anyone to peruse those lower shelves. I keep an eye on my customers and always bring a chair over to them if I think they might need or like them. On the other hand, I'm quite all right with customers stretching out on the floor or doing anything else that makes them happy and comfortable. And I have no time constraints. If somebody wants to take a book down, sit and read it from cover to cover, then put it back and leave, that's fine with me. I'd rather they bought the thing, of course, but the relaxed and friendly atmosphere I promote by letting customers do what they like in that regard more than makes up for any individual sale I might lose.
I have a bookstore dog, a big yellow lab, who loves people and particularly loves kids. He's only in the store a couple of times a week, and many of my regulars are quite disappointed if they show up on a non-Yossarian day.
All of my fiction sections are alphabetized by author, although certain sections are not. My world history section, for example, is arranged with general histories first, then by country within continents: so, Mexico and Canada first (I have a separate U.S. history section), followed by country-specific European histories alphabetical by country, but chronological by subject matter within each country. So, for example, all the books on the French revolution are together, and the books on the Napoleanic age come after those, etc. Then all the other continents similarly arranged. I try to figure out what would be most user-friendly and instinctive for each section and do that.
Good luck with the store, rocketjk. I love that you named your dog Yossarian! Catch-22 is one of my favorite books.
No offense taken, rocketjk. You are correct in that the owner has to make a profit to stay in business.
I find it more convenient and fun to search abebooks that this person's store, but I do try to give local businesses my money whenever I can.
#87> Well it's to each his/her own, certainly. I was mostly responding to the "miser" comment. And of course you will not buy a L'Amour online for the 38 cents you were hoping to get it for locally. But if the store's not a pleasant place to shop, that's a different issue, absolutely.
So, of course, I got curious. Cheapest L'Amour paperback on Abebooks (factoring in shipping costs) is $3.45.
Miserliness has nothing to do with pricing. A shop keeper charges the right market price, or he loses out to his competitors. The price must be neither too high nor too low to stay in business.
A used book shop near me also used to sell a few of the latest best sellers. A few years ago I was in the shop, browsing, when another customer came in wanting the latest Harry Potter which was in the window. The Price? £18. "But at Tesco's it's only £11", said the customer. "Then go and buy it at Tesco's", replied the book seller. Customer replied, "But Tesco's don't have any. They've sold out". Book seller responded, "If I didn't have any then my price would be £11".
Somebody might point out that, in a real way, prices in used-book stores are set by local real-estate prices. The cost of the store-owners' shelf space is determined by how much he paid for the store, how much it costs to heat and cool the place, how much property tax he pays, etc.
I remember when I was very young, I went to look at an office downtown. Sign in the window said $50/month. When I went in to snatch it up, I quickly learned that the price was $50/month per square foot, and that the office included 40 square feet of floor space. Space in malls is MUCH more expensive.
Not to step on anybody's toes: my point is that in brick-and-mortar venues, the price of books probably has less to do with the cost of stock and more to do with the cost of doing business in your particular community.
So, of course, I got curious. Cheapest L'Amour paperback on Abebooks (factoring in shipping costs) is $3.45.
You don't get that many cheap offers outside the US (on Amazon, say, I can still occasionally find books offered for pennies even to Canada, but the fixed minimum shipping of 6.9 or something means no book is cheaper than 7 dollars total), but whenever I come across one it's either a seller who hasn't realised just how expensive it is to actually package and mail a book, or, more often, a fairly large operation with tens or hundreds of thousands of items.
It's impossible to compete with them on price, but as rocket said, it's a choice between buying in person, immediately, what you hold in your hand, or willing to wait and risk disappointment.
I don't begrudge any used booksellers their (sometimes) higher prices. The overhead can be steep, particularly in the nice downtown areas. The traffic has decreased very much since the Internet. The two used bookstores I shop in the most are staffed by one person, with occasional unpaid help from friends and relatives. It may look miserly, but it's really just poverty.
If I see a book I'm looking for priced under about 10 euros, I know that it's not likely that I can get it by post for less, so I might as well buy it on the spot; if I see a book priced at 40 or 50, I would probably go home and check on the web whether someone else is offering the same book at a lower price or in better condition. If everyone thinks like that, then I fear we might be heading towards a situation where it's not worth booksellers (other than real specialists who have stuff you can find nowhere else) putting the more expensive items on display any more, and our secondhand bookshops will end up indistinguishable from charity shops.
"And the one time my son offered to trade in a book in near new/fine condition, she offered him a credit for $3.50, but he had to spend $4.00 before he could use his credit...ripoff!!"
"Ripoff" is a strong term. Let's examine the proposed transaction a bit.
" . . . my son offered to trade in a book in near new/fine condition, she offered him a credit for $3.50, . . . "
What was the book your son wanted to trade? Was it a book that the store would be able to turn around relatively quickly, or was it likely to sit on the shelf for a long time (see my post above regarding the cost of shelf space)? Was it a relatively common book that the seller might have already had one, two or even three copies of on hand? What I'm getting at is that the fact that the book was in good condition does not in and of itself make it particularly valuable to the bookseller. Going by the store's pricing policies, how much was the store owner likely to be able to sell that book for? Or, to put it another way, how much would you be willing to pay for it in her store?
" . . . he had to spend $4.00 before he could use his credit . . . "
Many (perhaps most) bookstores that offer store credit for used books require a minimum percentage of cash rather than store credit per purchase. Anywhere from 15% to 50% is common. Sounds like the store in question is at around the 50% level. I don't have such a policy, for business reasons I won't go into here. I may go to a pct model sometime soon, anyway. Many are the transactions I execute where all I'm doing is cashing in people's credit and collecting sales tax for the state, county and city I live in. That's fine if I've already sold, or will soon sell (for cash), the books they've brought me to accumulate their credit, but that's often not the case. Most stores that do a brisk trade in store credit need a minimum amount of cash per transaction just to get enough cash flow to stay open. I'm sure the book seller in question would love to have a lower cash per transaction policy (or none). In return for a book that your son evidently had no further use for, he gets to buy a book priced at $7.50 for only $4.00. Certainly we'd all like more liberal terms than that, but it doesn't really sound like a "ripoff" to me. That's a matter of opinion, or course.
Oh, my suggestions?
3. Accessible (no books on the lowest shelf where only toddlers and yoga practitioners can reach them)
4. Musty books segregated (allergies)
5. Counter help who has a clue
How many of these conditions are met at the thrift store? And your son will have to donate his book there, rather than getting any credit at all. However, you are supporting a very valuable organization and you are happy, both hugely important factors in the overall equation. :)
(94) Thanks for your input. I do appreciate your clarifications of what it's like to be a book store owner.
The book was a popular book, in near new condition, and she was eager to take it.
He picked up a book, which cover price was about the same as the book credit. He had to pay full price for it, because she would not let him use his credit unless he spent over a certain amount. That's why I felt 'ripped off'. He did too (he was unemployed at the time and had virtually NO money). He still has the credit at the store, unused.
Maybe that's the way things are done, but it struck me as a bait and switch tactic, and left a sour taste in my mouth.
Habitat for Humanity has their books on shelves, alphabetized by author. Goodwill does not, but that's mainly because people pull the books off the shelves and drop them into the children's book bins, below, making an incredible mess. I don't bother going through the bins most of the time.
And yes, both resale stores are worthy causes. :)
He did too (he was unemployed at the time and had virtually NO money).
She definitely should have explained the terms of the use of store credit before he elected to take the credit, but I don't see what his employment status has to do with the situation. Store owners don't generally inquire into their customers' financial situation when setting their pricing policies.
She should have explained it, I agree.
Because he had no money, I lent him the money to get the book...he was frustrated and didn't want to just ask for his original book back.
She didn't ask about his financial situation, nor should she. He just was in no position to have to pay for a book. And he thought that he would get it for free, since he had enough credit to pay for it.
Okay, next topic? :)
Okay, next topic? :)
I love my local used bookstores. But one of them seems to have very little storage space, because the aisles are often so full of bags of books awaiting pricing that I can't get to the ones already shelved~
#95> I understand how you can feel the way you do.
Your son might have asked about the store's credit usage policy before agreeing to the amount of credit he was to receive. On the other hand, a store with restrictions like that on credit usage should have their policies posted someplace. So if she didn't have anything posted, then, yes, that's on her, and I can see why you felt it was a bait and switch. (Did your son consider just asking for his book back at that point and saying "never mind" to the whole thing?)
If I'm understanding your explanation, though, the store owner gave your son $3.50 of store credit, then wouldn't let him use any of it on the book he wanted to buy? If that's the case, that's quite a poor system, I must agree.
It seems from your description that there is a flat dollar minimum you must spend before you can use credit. I've never heard of that, but I haven't been in the business for that long. That would give an advantage to people with a lot of credit built up. If you have to spend 10 dollars in cash before you can use your $75.00 of accumulated store credit, for example, that's a lot different than having to spend 10 dollars before using your $3.50 of store credit. The percentage system I outlined above is by far the more common, I believe.
At any rate, a store owner worth his/her salt will bend the rules to accommodate customers from time to time, especially first-time customers. I do that all the time. Customer good-will is the coin of the realm in retail, and especially in a fragile business like used book selling. Obviously, your bookseller slept through that class.
Edit to say that I wrote this while the last few posts were going up and didn't see them first.
No problemo, rocketjk!
Lilith, I'd offer to assist that book store owner, to be 'paid' in books...
By the way, here's the beast of my bookstore, the world's best bookstore dog (if I do say so myself), Yossarian!
That's not the store, of course, but the sliding glass door out to our deck at home.
I am wondering if it will be wise of me to have a trade-in program when starting up. I feel like that is something I could implement later on down the road once I am comfortable with the daily tasks I am going to be up against at the beginning. Does it deter people from going to a bookstore if they do not offer credit? I suppose I should note that in my market there is a Barnes & Noble, a used book store that is not very well organized, but does offer trade credit up to 50% of what they will sell it for, but I can't determine the actual rate in which they buy, a Half-Price Books which offers next to nothing, and an independent book store that sells new books and no credit. Also should clarify that this is Kansas City and the closest of these is 5 miles away.
I wouldn't offer an exchange program at all. Reason being that if you go to the book auctions (FUN!) and buy your own inventory, you have complete control of what comes in the door to claim your shelf space. But if you allow exchanges, you forsake absolute control of what comes in the door to claim your shelf space and complicate your life. Never forget: If you allow exchanges, YOU have to keep track of who owes what to whom. Do you really need the hassle?
Does it deter people from going to a bookstore if they do not offer credit?
It doesn't deter me, though it's nice, particularly as the stores I go to give you a better deal if you take credit. (This is very smart, because most people, I think, take the credit in that situation, so the money stays with the store, instead of people taking the cash and going down the street to buy a cup of coffee and a muffin, or, perhaps worse, going down the street to the other used bookstore!)
Always remember, the fact that someone comes in the door wanting to sell/trade you a book does not mean that you have to take that book.
Oh, and you don't have to keep track of anything. What the local stores do is give you a receipt with the amount of the credit, and it is your responsibility to hang onto that receipt and bring it in when you want to use it. If you lose it, you're out of luck. And you are warned about that at the time you receive the credit.
I get a lot of great books via my trade for store credit policy, and a lot of happy customers. Lot's of my customers come in regularly, bring back four books and buy four more. That's a regular profit for me, a deal for them (they're basically getting $2.00 credit off of every $4.30 book they buy), and four books back for me to sell again.
lilithcat is right. You say no to the books you don't want or that you already have one or two copies of, or just won't fit on the shelves where they'd normally go, or aren't in good enough condition for you. When customers come in with a small number of books for me to look at, I simply hand them back the books I don't want. But I also always have a Goodwill box going. Often the customer will just toss the rejects in that box. Once every week or so, I make a Goodwill run to drop off all my rejects.
If a customer is bringing in a box or more, such that I might have to ask them to leave the books for me to get to in a day or two, I simply ask them if they want to come back to get the rejects or if I can chuck them in the Goodwill box. Most people go the Goodwill route, which is easier for everybody.
I don't make my customers keep track of their own credit slips, although I absolutely see the logic there. I write out an old-fashioned receipt slip with their name, the date, and the amount of their credit. I have a file box with alphabetized dividers. It's all pretty easy. When they come back they remind me that they have a credit slip.
As for auctions, that's great if you have enough staff to allow you to attend them on a regular basis, and if you want to pay cash for most of your books instead of giving store credit (I think I pay cash for about 15% of the books I take in, including my own thrift store and garage sale hunting.) It also depends upon the sort of books you want to sell. I have quite a few customers who buy the lastest Coulters and Pattersons and Evanoviches at Target or Walmart, then bring them to me for some store credit. If you're hoping for a brisk trade in that sort of book, I don't know how much you'll find them at the auctions. They make a lot of money for me.
Bottom line, for me, is that taking books for credit is fun. It helps establish a great relationship with customers, and I'm constantly amazing at the range and quality of the books people bring to me. Just be firm about what you can and can't use, set up a relatively liberal trade/credit policy that is fair to the customer and allows you to turn the profit you need, and be willing to bend the rules from time to time to keep people happy. I might make some fine tunings to my system going along, but I would never jettison my credit policy altogether.
On the other hand, it never deters me if a used bookstore does not offer credit, because I almost always keep the books I buy! Or give them away to friends.
Something to do with American visavis European attitudes to (and prices of) space, perhaps, but I'm a bit mystified at the notion a second hand bookstore would have coffee or tea or chairs*. Wouldn't that space be better used for more shelves, and wouldn't customers better be given one less reason to run to the toilet?
Regarding dogs, I'm not allergic and I don't mind the presence of a store dog per se, but if it's proactively social and wants to play with me, I'm less likely to return anytime soon.
I'll nth the call for categorization.
* It's true I was in a store with a comfy armchair last summer: but it was full of books.
>107 -- American customers have been spoiled by venues like Barnes & Noble, which feature spacious snack bars and comfy armchairs scattered across the floor where better stores would have stacks. In my experience, at least one-third of the floor space in those places is given over to paraphernalia and food sales. Americans would rather sit on their butts and eat than do just about anything else. Reading (like television) is a great excuse to sit on one's butt and nosh.
And while I'm at it: Am I the only one in the country who has noticed that -- in a nation where everybody at least makes a pretense of keeping physically fit -- nobody can get through a full day at work without consuming three or four of those 5-hour energy drinks? I'm too old to work now but I well remember galloping through 8-hour bouts of manual labor on nothing more than a couple of ham sandwiches at noon and two, 10-minute smoke breaks.
I am not saying I will have a whole section dedicated to serving coffee and tea. Just a small table near the entry where they grab a cup a joe or brew a small cup of tea. Being in the Midwest we have some pretty cold days. Walking into a store, grabbing a warm cup, and browsing shelves can get me lost for hours, even in chain stores.
I live in Sweden, so I doubt cold winter days is the difference. Anyway, I didn't mean to imply you shouldn't serve warm drinks, just noting my outsider's surprise at your foreign ways.
I dislike coffee/tea in bookstores, at least when people are allowed to wander around with it. I've seen not only empty, but half-full, coffee cups sitting on random shelves, risking damage to books and customers alike.
108, you say that like it's a bad thing. i think most people given the opportunity would like to sit down and eat.
anyway in the bookstore where i work, having a cafe draws in customers and helps us sell books. yes we have slightly less book-selling space, so what. the store is a social center and more a part of the community. we have to occasionally remove the odd cup from a shelf, and caution adults against bringing hot beverages into the kids' area but as far as I know there have been no serious mishaps.
mluszcak, when I visited with my sister in Illinois a few years back, we drove to Burlington Iowa and I was introduced to a bookstore with a coffee/hot chocolate area in the front. As it was a cold day, I really appreciated that nice 'touch'. I've also seen this approach in Christian bookstores, so it's not just a used bookstore thing. :)
> 112 -- I didn't say it was a bad thing. I just pointed out a couple of ironies I've noticed. I like my snacks same as anybody else. Got humor?
I'd also point out that crumbs from food can attract critters that are not good for books.
that's why we have this magical device called a vacuum cleaner that we use every day all over the store and cafe.
Yeah, I don't think I am going to offer much in the way of food. The coffee/tea thing is just a free offering that I personally would use myself quite a bit :P
That doesn't help if people are dropping crumbs on the shelves, in books while they're browsing, etc.
how often does that happen in bookstores you frequent? I have never seen someone wandering the shelves dropping crumbs. Gross! You make it sound like bookstores that serve muffins and croissants are festering filth holes. What in the world makes you think we would let that happen? Maybe the same places that let their cats pee all over the floors would do that, but who would shop in a place like that, let alone eat? At least in the store where I work that just doesn't happen. Ewwww!
118, plus if you serve food that opens you up to a lot of other regulations/liability issues. it has to really be an integral part of your business plan to make it work, and it's a lot of work. at the store where i work, the cafe is managed by a separate company and i believe they sub-lease the space from the store's owners. that way the bookstore owners aren't fussing over cups and sugar and stuff.
When I first bought my bookstore, I thought I would offer free coffee and tea but, basically, I've never gotten around to it and haven't really missed it. I have a sitting area--one table with four comfortable chairs around it--because I want people to feel comfortable hanging out and relaxing in my store. Also, if a couple comes in and one person finishes looking at books before the other, I like it if the customer no longer browsing has someplace to sit and relax rather than feeling the need to go someplace else or nudge their partner to finish up and leave. If somebody wants to take three books to my sitting area and look them over to decide which one(s) they want to buy, that's good. And the table is piled with, guess what? Books! Sometimes somebody just sitting and relaxing will start paging through one and actually buy it. But mostly, I just want my store to be a comfortable, welcoming place to spend time in, and I find that the table and chairs adds to that significantly.
Sort of a question that belongs here. But what size is your bookstore rocketjk? I plan on purchasing a building that is 2-3 floors. I will live on the top 1 or 2 (depending on square footage) and the main or bottom two floors will be bookstore. The buildings in my area range from a few thousand square feet to 15,000+
I honestly don't recall how many square feet I've got. I'll try to dig my lease up and get back to you. It's pretty big, though, for a 1-person operation, which is essentially what I am. I have one assistant who only works when I'm not here, which is every Saturday and every other Monday. Which is not what you asked, of course. I'll try to get back to you tomorrow on it. You'd think I'd know, though, huh?
Significant reductions in manpower and lack of funds have hurt law enforcement in a number of cities nationally. Here is a list of crimes to which police in Oakland, CA, will no longer respond:
grand theft: dog
false information to peace officer
required to register as sex or arson offender
dump waste or offensive matter
possess forged notes
pass fictitious check
obtain money by false voucher
fraudulent use of access cards
stolen license plate
embezzlement by an employee
false personification of other
injure telephone/power line
interfere with power line
unauthorized cable tv connection
My point in posting this here is to point out that, if this trend continues, there'll be nobody to enforce zoning laws, building permits, business licenses, etc. Wanna open a bookstore? Move into a vacant building that you like and set up shop. I think they call that anarchy, so you better keep a gun handy. But really, there seem to be fewer and fewer things/forces in the way of doing as one pleases these days.
My point in posting this here is to point out that, if this trend continues, there'll be nobody to enforce zoning laws, building permits, business licenses, etc
Police have never generally been involved in license and zoning inspections. There are different agencies that deal with those things.
And after doing some research into #125, I found out the police will not respond to those particular crimes as an EMERGENCY on the 911 line and ask that you report them online instead.
Wanna open a bookstore? . . . . there seem to be fewer and fewer things/forces in the way of doing as one pleases these days.
Unless you count the advent of Amazon and the kindle, of course. :-)
> 125 Yes of course. But if they're laying off cops, you can bet they're laying off health inspectors, building inspectors, etc.
> 127 And if you read about the manpower shortages, you must have some idea how long it will take to respond to a non-emergency complaint:
1st cop: Awww, Man! This was called in five days ago!
2nd cop: Right. Which way to the donut shop?
128 -- please explain: How does the advent of Amazon and the kindle prevent anyone from doing as he/she pleases?
I grant that competition from Amazon would be tough to beat, but there's no way that Amazon would stop you from opening a store -- if opening a store is what you want to do.
#132> The advent of the kindle and Amazon prevent a prospective bookstore owner from opening a bookstore without having to have his/her head examined. I did it anyway, but I am prevented from making the robust profit I might otherwise be able to. And by the way, it was, you know, a joke.
I think that with the demographic and location where I would be opening up a store, it would be less of any issue. There are a significantly small amount of new and used bookstores in the Kansas City area. Especially when you compare it to other similar sized cities. I would be filling a necessary gap in the cultural arena. Or at least I would like to think so.
Have you narrowed down a location yet, mluszcak? I live in the KC area and would be curious to check it out when it's up and running.
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