Tag Archives: shop local

Caretaking the Eternal Library of Humanity

My friend Anita out in Kansas is looking to relocate the bookshop she manages, Al’s Old and New Books. She has discovered that some people think used bookshops are…. downmarket, while others prefer the term “passe.”

Bollocks!

Jack and I have often commented that we oversee a library of ever-changing leftovers, some of which have mass appeal, some of which have esoteric appeal. But the reason we like what we do is that we’re not full of the latest bestseller, face outward on the aisle so mega-shoppers walking to the mall can be enticed by “Oh, I heard about that on Twitter!” impulse moments.

We have the long-term, hardcore stuff. The 1970s classics on Marxism, the Leif Ungers and Robert Fords and Lisa Changes. People who write well but disappeared into the well of marketing madness with nary a splash. My agent Pamela and I were talking one day about the “nebulous” position of used book stores in the publishing world. “After all, NYC doesn’t make any money from them,” she said, but then added, “but we all benefit from them. You are the caretakers of humanity’s eternal library, aren’t you? Like a benevolent dragon trying to get the gold horde out there instead of sit on it.”

Used book stores are the place where the sounds of silence outweigh the shrieks of hawkers telling you why THIS BOOK is the Next Great Thing. You can look for yourself–and thus see for yourself–in a used books shop. In a society that equates old with “has been” rather than “wisdom,” used books shops are a place for those who know when not to swallow a line.

We love running one. And this week, we’ve sold an amazing number of  what from a mainstream point of view would be “nobody’s gonna buy these” books. We sold about 20 volumes of philosophy. No, really, PHILOSOPHY! Mostly 1960s textbooks and treatises.

We sold a great wheen of French novels, both translated and in the original language. And we sold a set of plays written in the 1700s. A cheap, simple copy for someone who wanted to look at their structure. $3.20 and out the door she went.

This is part of why used book shops matter. It’s nice to have big well-lit shops with the bestsellers in them at full retail, but it’s also nice to have a dowdy little community center where you can think for yourself. That, and the $1.50 cuppa and the comfy couches and the cat option and the fact that if you come in and say, “Oh crap, I left my wallet at home,” we will say, “Fine, we’ll write it in the ledger and you can pay us next time you come.” And the customer, who only gets down from Ohio four times a year, stares at you like you’ve gone mad, and comes back two months later and pays up.

This is why it’s important for us to be here. Downmarket, my arse. Up the caretakers of the eternal library of humanity!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, out of things to read, publishing, reading, shopsitting, small town USA, VA, writing

The More the Merrier

Jack’s weekly guest blog on why Big Stone Gap is a great place to visit

It’s always a real pleasure to get unsolicited confirmation that we are doing something right. We got two examples this week and I’ll let them speak for themselves.visitors

First of all, to our great surprise and delight, a link to a terrific write-up about Our Good Chef Kelley and the Second Story Cafe appeared yesterday morning. We had had a visit from photographer Jason Barnette a few weeks ago, which he wrote up on his food blog ‘The Southeastern Traveler’.

http://www.southeasterntraveler.com/blog/2014/05/the-second-story-cafe-is-a-first-story-destination-in-big-stone-gap-va/

Today our phone has been ringing off the hook with folk asking about the cafe hours and where exactly we are.

Inside the bookstore. Yes, that bookstore. :]

Then, yesterday afternoon, we were equally delighted to have a group come into the bookshop who had driven down specially from Harrisonburg, VA just because one of them had read The Little Bookstore and they decided to see it for themselves. They stayed overnight in one of the local hotels and then came back for breakfast here and to shop for books.

As they were leaving they said they would definitely be back and raved about the beauty of the town and its setting. We’re so happy to be one of the many reasons people come to Big Stone Gap. We look forward to the film from Adri’s books, and we look forward to the new local businesses that will spring from increased interest in our area.

And we’re ever so proud to be the Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, VA, writing