Though bookselling with an open shop where buyers browse and money changes hands at retail is a dying occupation, it is still one of America’s most popular fantasies.
Scratch any serious reader and just below the skin is a would-be book seller. Most of them have their some day shops clearly in mind.
Owning a Bookstore – An Old Fantasy
About those fantasy book stores: In the mind’s eye they all have coffee bars, long dust dappled moats of light streaming in through the high windows and comfortable chairs. There’s always a cat/or a dog/or a parrot in residence and an ever changing cast of characters, usually drawn from a pre-Seinfeld America.
But those of us who are still in the book business and its 21st century offshoots know it’s not really like that anymore. Being a bookseller is still a good life, but the model of what’s good about it has changed.
Being a Book Seller in the 21st Century
I was fortunate my folks were in the book business. When I was growing up I didn’t have a choice. This was our business. I was in it.
I moved to Maui in the 1970s and put out my first Hawaii-Pacific catalog in 1979. By the 1990s the trade (and me with it) had migrated to the internet, and Maui was no longer a sleepy little island backwater, it was an upscale resort destination.
There is a lot to like about the bookseller life style in the 50th state. As I write this the papayas are ripe on the tree, the gardenias are in bloom. The dog is waiting for the morning ride to the beach. Though the climate is murder on paper, I’ve never regretted choosing Maui as a home base.
Still, when I look around, there are still others in the same trade whose lifestyles fill me with envy:
No one documents the good life like Ian J. Kahn.
In my own fantasy of book selling - Ian J. Kahn is at the top of the list. He is a former attorney, and a person who dabbled in books for many years before joining the trade. He is the owner of Lux Mentis (ABAA) in Maine.
In that capacity he does all the ABAA shows, travels and exhibits widely and also attends book fairs and related events around the world. When it comes to social media no one documents the high points of the good life better than Ian.