Have you read all these books?

Have you read all these books?
I have several answers, including: – “I’m working on it.” or “Yup. Twice.”

Another one: “Do you read much?”
Me: “Four or five books a week.”
“I wish I had the time to read that much.”
Me: “It’s just a matter of priorities. I wish I had time to tidy the store and clean my house.”
Priorities are important, but often get forgotten. Or they change but we don’t notice – and sometimes the new priorities aren’t really ours. We’ve been sidetracked.

It’s a good idea, occasionally, to stop and think about what you’re doing and why. I think most of us used book sellers got into the business because we love books: surely not for the money, although we hope to make enough to be comfortable.

But then, in our attempts to get the businesses off the ground and make it profitable, we get caught up in the whole idea of more, bigger, better.

It’s easy to find yourself spending all your time listing internet books, tracking sales in the different sections of the store, keeping records of everything – is ebay outselling Amazon, is Abe selling anything?

Suddenly you aren’t a bookseller living the ideal life. You’re a business person, doing what they all do – crunching numbers and trying to improve the bottom line. No time to read. Going home worn out and numbed and plunking your butt down in front of the TV.

I did a poll on reading and tv habits a while back on the oldbookstore yahoo group. Not scientifically significant but: out of 30 people, 4 read 5+ books a week, 14 read 1-4 /week, 10 read 1-4/month, and 2 had no time to read.

On the tv/vcr/dvd part, 5 watched 3 or more hours per day, 21 watched 1-3 hours/day, and only 3 don’t own a television.

NO TIME TO READ?!?!? Then what’s the point? Watching TV? Isn’t that what you do when you don’t have a life and you’re just waiting to die?

You often hear that no one ever said, on their deathbed, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” I can’t imagine anyone saying, “I wish I’d watched more TV.” Especially a bookseller.

My bookstore is only open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. It brings in a bit of money. I have a couple of other sources of money. I do some renovations. I could move my store to a better location (almost any location would be better), but then I’d have to drive to work and work at it much harder. I’d make more money, but then I’d have less time to do other things – and yes, I do have other interests! A bit of gardening. I grow flowers & some food. I build solar collectors and try to get my energy consumption down. I make my own jam – rhubarb lime and ginger marmalade, huckleberry/raspberry jam.

A friend of mine asked me if I was worried about people switching to the Kindle or something like it, and not buying books any more. I said no. I’d just close the store, keep the books I still wanted to read, and I could probably get by. She laughed. She has a friend who is a multi-millionaire. He’s depressed because he’s lost several million dollars in the last 6 months. He still has several million left. I have very little and don’t care if the business folds. I wouldn’t mind having his money, but I’d rather be me than him.
To quote my friend Dennis*, “I am rich in books.”

Having read over what I’ve just written, I should put in a few caveats: I’m old, single, & established. I have no debts, mortgage, or rent. My children are self-supporting. So – easy for me to talk. We should each try to improve our stores, just don’t loose track of why you are doing it.


*Dennis runs Second Story Books in Springfield, Oregon. You can read his whole piece on ‘What is a Bookseller’ at http://wesellusedbooks.com/bookstores.html . It’s written as prose, but Dennis has a poet’s soul. I re-read this very month or two.

PS great nom de plume: F-Stop Fitzgerald – a book on photography

9 thoughts on “Have you read all these books?”

  1. Great post. I know what you mean, you get so wrapped up in running the business you forget why you wanted to sell books in the first place. I have been so busy trying to make my online book business work, that I hardly read anything in the past few years. Last year, I joined a local book club and that has helped me to prioritize my book reading. I have been reading each months book club selection so far and other books as well. I am enjoying reading again and plan on reading a least 1 book a month.

  2. Think it was Alexander McCall Smith who quoted an African saying about the death of an old person being the same as burning a library.

  3. Hi Cate,
    Alexander McCall Smith is one of my favourite whodunit authors. He’s wonderful – very different from my other favourites like Tony Hillerman and Ian Rankin.

    I haven’t seen that quote. That’s good. It means there are still books of his that I can look forward to.

  4. I completely agree-instead of wasting 3 hours in front of the tv a night, try opening a book for even a half an hour. I work full time, and I manage to read at least 2-3 books a month. There’s nothing quite like curling up with a good book. Plus, no commercial interruptions.

  5. Sigh.

    I have enough books to open a used bookstore myself, however instead of doing that I said I would read them all. Part of my 101 Things in 1001 days was to read all the books I own that I haven’t read yet.


    I write for a living, but it still I’m no where to completing that goal. I don’t watch a lot of tv, but what I do watch is going to have to stop and I’m going to have to crack open some books.

  6. I completely agree with this post, when you work full time its almost impossible (for me anyway!) to get into a regular reading pattern. not only do I not seem to have the time or energy a lot of the time but I also have such problems trying to decide what books to read when i fanally get the oppertunity. I tried joining a book club but I find that it just doesnt fit round my schedule and quite often they will read books that i just have no interest. A few months ago though i found a website called the bookarmy which helped so much, it recomended books to read based on my fav books and also gives me an oppertunity to chat to people who have just finished the same book, its great.

  7. Breath of fresh air! Man with his priorities in order! And (reflecting on that other post about adding a coffee bar to the bookstore) his reading time would be cut way back if he had to making espresso and latte for all those people who don’t have “time to read.”

  8. “NO TIME TO READ?!?!? Then what’s the point? Watching TV? Isn’t that what you do when you don’t have a life and you’re just waiting to die?”

    This is so true! Watching TV is allowing your brain cells to slowly die off… one by one. Reading books makes your cells to re-grow.

  9. Someone here posted the best part about reading: No Commercial Interruptions. I myself go to school full time and spend the other time working on my website, but I always find time to read, even if it is on the toilet or when I get bored. I always find the time to read something good.

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