Lori's Book Nook

What makes a bookstore great?

Posted on: July 27, 2006

This is something that has cropped up a couple times so far, since I began this blog. What makes a secondhand bookstore great, or mediocre?

New bookstores — well that’s easy. Whatever Chapters ain’t. Knowledgeable staff. A broad range of books on the shelves, including small press stuff and lesser known authors. Good ordering policy. Chairs scattered throughout. Intriguing displays.

But 2ndhand bookstores, that’s different. Lots of stock, piled high, but not too high. Lots of space to house an ever-changing population of books. Piles of books kept to a manageable level…customers should be able to walk down your aisles, not pick their way precariously. Stools and chairs scattered about. At least one cat.

Most importantly — an aggressive acquisition policy. One of the used best bookstores in Vancouver Albion Books (523 Richards Street, downtown Vancouver. Tell Dave I sent ya!) is great because the owner pays cash for new stock, and he really knows his books (and music). So Axiom #2 is “Pay in store credit, you’ll get crap.” [I’m keeping Axiom #1 open for a larger insight…]

And a used bookstore needs a constant influx of fabulous stock…or people like me will pick it dry quickly. Then it has to lie fallow for 6 months to a year, before going back in.

Admit it — you know what I’m talking about!

Anyway, what are your favourite bookstores? Anything else to add to my criteria for a great one?

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6 Responses to "What makes a bookstore great?"

I used to enjoy the policy in place at *gasp* Chapters in my hometown. They allowed you to remove books from the shelves and take them into the Starbucks.

There are three major bus stops within a block. Guess how long the policy lasted?

Then they started rotating the sections every six weeks, so that what was once mystery would become teen fiction or whatever.

Who does the PR and Marketing for these people?

No kidding! Consistency is crucial…I’m definitely finding that out. Potential customers will walk if they have to look to hard for something, or even if they have to ask for it.

Just a note about albion books- I went there about a year ago and the owner was so rude I swore I would never go back then the other day I had some new books I though I could trade in. So I decided to give them another try and again they were very rude and gave me a really bad deal on the books and when they didn’t have the book I was looking for they refused to give be a credit. So I went to the used books store down the street where they gladly took my books and offfered me more. I now have learnt my lesson and will not go back and I was so upset about the way I was treated that I am making an effort to spread the word about them.

Suzi, it’s too bad you had that experience. Now, I’ve been in the store many a time when people were selling books, and he does get picky…but then he also gets a lot of people in there. He doesn’t have that much storage space, unlike the guy down the street who has another store a block East on Pender.

I sold some brand-spanking books yesterday to my local 2ndhand bookseller (review copies of books) and I was surprised when he didn’t take a couple — just ’cause they’re new doesn’t mean that they’ll sell. While it surprised me, I also know that I don’t have my finger on the pulse of the 2ndhand book=buying public, so I didn’t argue. Anyway, this rather curmudgeon-y guy was even more so when in book-buying mode — I think it’s a form of tunnel vision, mixed with a dislike of telling people ‘no’.

Anyway, Suzi, perceived rudeness, like everything, is in the eye of the beholder. And your time is your own…but do you really think it’s adding to your karmic bank to spend time Googling a store that wouldn’t buy your book and bad-mouthing it around the Internet? Customer service in general has taken a real down-turn in the last few years — you could be very busy.

No, I agree with Suzi. That dude is ruuuuude, and possibly has a couple screws loose. He needs to realize there are two other used book stores in a one block radius, and they can scoop up his business if he’s going to be be rude to customers and second-hand sellers.

Hi Bookers, thanks for stopping by.

Ah well. To each their own. I find the owner of the one on the corner rude, myself. (Although his staff are usually more human and friendly.) On the other hand, I personally like the owner of Albion — when I pop into town now, I make a point of stopping by for a visit and a browse.

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