Serendipity: Outpost of Civilization
Marc Selvaggio, himself a Bay area dealer, describes Peter as, "the most generous of booksellers in America, his concern always that dealers he sold make money."
Anthony Bliss, curator of rare books and literary manuscripts at the Bancroft Library describes him as "a source of incalculable value." "I've known and relied upon him for thirty years and never had a harsh word."
For others, Peter's quixotic nature has kept them away. John Windle, the San Francisco antiquarian dealer, said this; "I've known Peter Howard for forty years and yet feel I don't know him at all."
The Internet has decimated the values of old and rare material by exposing the bizarre imbalance between copies sought and seekers for them, the most recent insult the emergence of eBooks that permit out-of-print material to be read for free and newer material to be snatched on whim off play lists that grow longer by the hour. Book stores have been under pressure for the past one hundred years but the buzz saws of computer access, transparency of huge inventories, declining attention spans and the growing belief that skimming a hundred books is better than reading one all the way through - altogether spell cataclysm. In such an environment its apparent why Serendipity matters to those who care about books and why, if it closes, the loss will be palpable.
For the local store to continue a new owner needs to be found. The shop is already staffed. The manager Nancy Kosenka, who has been with Peter since 1976, is looking to stay as is bookkeeper Tsomo Tsering. The assistant Tsering Wangchuk enjoys his job helping visitors and organizing material. Peter is irreplaceable but someone or some combination of souls may elect to climb the mountain that Peter has looked down from for more than three decades. If it comes to this two generations will be grateful.
To they who may be interested sales have been running at over a million dollars a year for a long time and the shop seems assured of regular traffic. The inventory at the outset will be a herculean challenge: what is there? What is it worth today? Who will buy it? In the shop most material is priced; in the warehouse most not.
The prospects for used and rare bookstores in the western world are decidedly negative, but in a few places, and Berkeley is one, they will survive.
Here is to hoping that money and imagination find their way to continue what Peter Howard has carried into the 21st century - respect for the printed word.
The shop is located at 1201 University Avenue, Berkeley, 94702. The hours are Monday - Saturday, 9:00AM - 5PM PST, or by appointment.
Those interested in the opportunity should contact Nancy Kosenka by phone  841-7455 or email at email@example.com.