The old school antiquarian book trade is alive and well and living in Xenia, Ohio. Meet Elizabeth Svendsen, 43, who entered the trade less than ten years ago as an online seller in 2004. She did well on the internet and in 2006 added Blue Jacket Books, a bricks and mortar used book store, which became a popular local hang out.
Aiming a little higher she sold the store to a customer in 2011 and upgraded to a traditional antiquarian dealership, Walkabout Books, complete with a second story showroom and a brand new ABAA membership.
Talk about old school, her specialty, the oldest of the old school niches – Exploration and Travels – and her first catalog devoted to Africa, is available by request. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
While dealers in the past often came to the trade by working in or scouting for the dusty shops of a bygone era this is the generation came of age on line. Svendsen recalled her first forays into bookselling came by listing her books from graduate school.
As for the shop, as her on line business grew she needed a place to store her inventory and “in Xenia the difference in what it costs to rent a store and what it costs to rent storage was not substantial.”
She estimated it took her about five years “to actually earn a living” from her book selling efforts, and now with her transition into to the upper echelon of the field, she thinks “it might take that long again to get established.”