Eureka Books staff meeting

Posted by on December 12, 2007 in Uncategorized | 9 comments

Ah, the underbelly of the antiquarian book business.  We’ve been bookstore owners for exactly one week, and so far it’s been just about the most fun we’ve ever had.  We’ve also had some good media coverage, including:

This front page story in the Eureka Times-Standard.

This  story in Publishers Weekly.

This write-up in Shelf Awareness.

A nice shout-out from GalleyCat.

And, after the jump, I’ll reprint the piece I wrote the North Coast Journal, the alternative weekly where my garden column appears.


Last week, I called my brother in
LA and told him that my husband Scott and I were buying an antiquarian
bookstore. He considered our
occupations—magazine editor, author, and now bookstore owner—and said, “Wow. Books, magazines—you guys are really getting
into a growth industry up there.”

“Yes, we believe the printed page
is the wave of the future,” I said, “and we’re investing in it heavily.”

Yikes. As I write this, I have been the part-owner of Eureka Books for
less than 24 hours. It’s a grand,
glorious old place, crammed to the ceiling with odd and offbeat treasures like
Victorian marriage manuals, yellowed sheaves of sheet music, and even a Zane
Grey novel bound in flamboyant marbled papers for Liberace’s library. A few days ago, a book scout came through
looking for inventory to sell to dealers, and he pulled out what may be the
first novel about Alcoholics Anonymous. The term ‘alcoholism’ was so new, back in the 1940s when the novel was published,
that it had to be defined on the dust-jacket flap. The scout paid four bucks
for it and may sell it for twenty to a dealer who specializes in AA books. The dealer might sell it to a collector for
$120. Every book finds its home eventually. So it goes in the rare book trade.

I don’t know a damn thing about
rare books—I like my paperbacks cheap and tattered—but I know that I plan to
fight long and hard against the alleged demise of the book. Let the National
Endowment for the Arts make dire predictions about the decline in reading. Let Sony, Apple, and Amazon roll out one
handheld e-book device after another. I’m having none of it. I love
the smell of an old book, I love the heft of a hardcover, and I love getting to
know a person by browsing their bookshelves. Surely I’m not the only one.
Antiquarian bookstores all over the country are closing their doors, but by
God, I’m going to wedge my body in the doorway of this one and keep it open.

Scott, who founded a magazine about
rare books, is in charge of figuring out a strategy for making a nineteenth
century-style bookstore viable in the twenty-first century. He’s been a book dealer before and he’s in
touch with the movers and shakers in the antiquarian book world. Most of them are well past retirement age
and their kids aren’t interested in old books. They give him fatherly advice
and drop hints about where a few good private collections might be had for a
decent price. Several of them have told
him that he’s crazy for buying a bookstore in this digital age, but they say it
fondly, the way your dad might tell you that you’re crazy for restoring an old
Mustang or taking your rock band on the road. It’s crazy, but in a good way.

As for me, I hope to pull a shift in the store once
in a while so I can live out my romantic writer/bookstore-owner fantasies. Just yesterday, I was browsing the shelves
when I came across a whole section of books on a bit of obscure botanical
history that I’ve been interested in lately. I started to pull the books off the shelf to see if I could afford them,
and then I thought, “Wait a minute. I’ve already bought them. I totally
own all these books.”

That’s a dangerous thought. On second thought, maybe
I shouldn’t be allowed to work in the store. I never could stand to part with a good book.

(reprinted from the North Coast Journal, December 12, 2007 issue)

9 Comments

  1. First, congratulations and best wishes in this new endeavor. Reading your posts about the bookstore, I am reminded of the book “84 Charing Cross Road”. I imagine your bookstore is much like the one in that book. I envy you having access to old gardening books like that!

  2. I wish you the greatest good fortune in this venture …
    Joanna

  3. Congratulations!
    As a proud Eurekan I was tickled to read the news. I’m looking forward to staying in “Our Town” for booksignings, instead of having to drive up to Northtown.
    Can’t stop Eureka, folks! We’re coming up!

  4. I think a mixture of old and new may be what I look for. I LOVE the smell of used books. I love finding hard bound treasures and tattered paperbacks and cheesy romances and new, shiny fiction. I love it all.
    I love Borders only because it carries variety, but I resent the influx of noise, movies and music in my book sanctuary.
    I also love electronic books. In a world that demands $8 for a paperback book, I love only paying $5 and getting to try a new author. It might have something to do with the fact that I’m published in ebooks as well.
    I hope to make it into to your new/old bookstore. I’m SO GLAD you didn’t let it close.

  5. Some friends of mine purchased a book store here in Connecticut a couple of years ago. They originally bought it with another couple who has since bowed out. Both the people have other jobs and still find time to work with their passion; the books. They have a lot of book/author events and art shows and such. They have made a success through hard work and I hope the same for you.
    Good Luck.

  6. I wish you great success with your new store.
    BTW – which if those fine fellows in the picture is your husband? Or do you just have a thing about men with receding hairlines?!

  7. Hi Amy!
    Congrats on your new venture. This has to be one of my all-time favorite book stores. So happy it will stay with us as long as you and Scott are at the helm.
    And, not to worry re: reading being a thing of the past. Even those who are on-line only READ. Ha!
    Good luck, and I’ll see you in the stacks.

  8. I’ve just reread Amy Stewarts Flowers Confidential. Not only great information but VERY well written. I’d like to email her.
    Al Rogers, Author of PEONIES published by Timber Press

  9. Amy & Scott,
    Best wishes for your new adventure! I am sure you will do well.
    Love your books, Amy, and Scott’s FINE BOOKS. Between them I have explored worlds I never thought of existing.
    Thanks for the fun!
    Ann