What's Up and Coming with West Coast Bookstores?
"It all started when I bought a couple of books at a cooperative in Sacramento. We sold one of the books the next day for a good price and loved it; we were hooked. I quit to do it full time and then got Shep involved," Christine said. "We began selling books online in the CompuServe Book Forum, which was before the internet," continued Christine. "Then in 1998 we moved to the Sierra foothills of Amador County in the wine and gold country. It was near Ione and Sutter Creek. We built a 'book house' where we have 50,000 books crammed into a 1,500 square foot space on a 10 acre hilltop and we've been there ever since." She also noted that they have about 4,000 books in an antique mall in Jackson.
She said they buy at shows, from small collections or estates, library sales, and other bookstores. They love to travel so they don't want to open a shop. They went to a sci-fi convention recently and even bought books there. "We get significant repeat business and have a few direct customers. We try to cultivate customers the old-fashioned way," said Christine, "with print catalogs on different topics which we enclose with each order. It makes us stand out a little bit."
Shep specializes in sci-fi and Christine does everything else. "Shep is the computer guy who keeps our complicated system working." Shep told me that Christine had just finished teaching a class at the Colorado Book School.
Well that's it, kids. At this point, my feet hurt and I felt that I had a pretty good cross sampling. Besides it was nearing the witching hour of 5 p.m. when the show would close. There seems to be a pretty universal feeling that the brick and mortar bookstore is going to struggle and that the internet and book shows are going to be the principle ways to sell books in the future. I think it is sad, but true. I will always want to touchy-feely a book before I buy it, but now and then I do buy on the Net, but carefully, very carefully.
I vowed to do the fair myself in 2007, so come on down and see me and we'll talk books!