One Month In and New Bookshop Doing Well

Tomorrow begins the second month of Circle City Books’ existence. That’s the day on which I change the coding that I assign to every book when I price it. Until now, I’ve coded all my books “CC1” indicating that the book went on the shelf during the store’s first month. Starting tomorrow, and lasting for another month, the coding will be “CC2.” At some point I suppose, books that have been on the shelf too long will be sentenced to some kind of punishment: the bargain bin, execution, maybe a pep talk. In any case, the end of my first month finds the store still in business, and doing better than I expected.  (I admit to low expectations.)

we're open signThe time change has revealed to me a heretofore unknown problem. When the sun sets at 5:00 p.m., it means that the last hour and a half of business passes with my store cloaked in darkness. When I first opened it was light until closing time. But I have no neon light; no flashing sign; no spotlight illuminating my storefront. I do have lights in the window, but even with those on, it is surprising how dark the store looks from the street. People driving by wouldn’t know I am open. So this is one of the things that I overlooked. Sometime soon I’ll have to correct that.

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How I Opened my Bookstore

I can’t remember when I thought that it might be fun to have my own bookstore. I know that since my teens I have enjoyed going to book stores. The first “book” type stores I remember going to was the comic book store that was operated at the building that housed the local taxi service. I grew up reading “Classics Illustrated” and DC comics.

The Marvel Universe

I was blown away when Marvel came on the scene with comics like “The Fantastic Four”, “Tales of Suspense”, “ The Hulk”, “Strange Tales” and the like. I don’t remember going to many bookstores when I was a child, but I had lots of books nonetheless. My mother bought books for me, I got books from the library at school and relatives gave me books. I really started acquiring books when I got out of high school, went to college for a while.   I got a car and my aquisitions exploded. It quickly became apparent that I needed a bumper sticker that said, “ I brake for book stores”. By my early 20’s I had accumulated a thousand or so odd books. Most of them came from bookstores, but many of them came from going to the flea market. This was 40 years or so ago and the nature of bookstores has changed dramatically since then. When I was in my late teens and 20’s and went into a bookstore and saw a book I really liked, I generally bought the book. In those days you didn’t know when you might see a particular book again. Today if I visit a book store and find a book I like, I am not quite as likely to buy the book on the basis that I might not be able to find that book again. Armed with my cell phone I can quickly determine if most books are readily available by doing a simple search on my favorite -site ABE Books. I have wondered the hall of nostalgic memory and have digressed from my story.

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Is it Difficult for a New Bookshop to Find Books?

The weather in North Carolina has turned a corner toward fall, which means that occasionally I can open the doors to my store and let some air in. I’ve been spending most of my days behind my new counter, organizing sorting, cleaning, pricing and studying. Even though there is a “Closed” sign visible, with the doors open, people poke their heads in, wondering what’s inside and when we open. I’ve been giving tours to anyone interested, and several people have arrived carrying books to sell.

I am starting to feel buried by books. I think I can squeeze 15,000 books onto my shelves, still leaving room for records and cds. But I think I have collected over 25,000 books since mid July. When I started, I wondered if I would be able to accumulate enough books to open in just two months; now I don’t know what to do with all my books. They are rising around my ears like an advancing flood. I rented my third storage unit this week, mostly to make enough room in the store to construct shelving. It may turn out that storage becomes a permanent expense.

The books I added this week are an astounding assortment. As I mentioned last time, there are 150 circus books. There are also many old railroading books, a collection of old tool catalogues, 50 books about mountains, a whole shelf from the 1950s about atomic energy, 20 volumes of My Book House – I could go on, but the fact is I don’t have the shelf space for such esoterica. Perhaps I will rotate special sections in and out of the store for a week at a time, keeping the rest in storage. It’s too early to say for sure; first I have to get shelves in place and then see what fits. Curiously, I am finding very few of the books I most like to read: Orwell, Waugh, Maugham, Greene – the mid-century Brits. Over time, maybe I’ll pass my odd tastes on to customers.

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What books to stock your bookshop with and what books to avoid

It seems easy enough: find a vacant shop, fill it with bookshelves, fill those shelves with books and start selling books. You’re in business! You’re now a book seller. You also need customers, people willing to buy your books at the price you set. The question arises: what sort of books should I buy and … Read more

Must-have books in your bookshop

Must-haves in Your Stock (II)

Part I of Must-haves in Your Stock

By HeeJin Lee

It’s great to hear from those of you who have also been thinking about your must-haves. One bookshop that carries an eclectic selection in addition to the regulars found in any bookshop is the City Lights Books in San Francisco. The American sister bookshop to George Whitman’s Shakespeare & Company in Paris (not to be confused with Sylvia Beach’s store by the same name; for an account of Whitman’s store and the relationship between the two stores, I recommend Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer) has a Beat Literature & History section, a Dada & Surrealism section, and a Green section. Check out the bookshop online here:

The next must-have category for me is:

  • Introduction to Korea
Korea Old Palace Buildings

While I came to the States with my family when I was young, I have maintained a strong connection with my home country. In the States, my parents and I used to count the number of English-language books on Korea available in bookshops or libraries that we visited. What started out as a childhood counting game has turned into a personal mission of sorts to share my fondness for Korea with others, all the more since I studied Korean Studies in college. In my bookshop, I plan to have a Korea section which would include language instruction books, travel guides, history books, and Korea-related literature (English-language works about Korea and works by Korean authors).

Despite my penchant for all things Korean, I have to admit that I haven’t read much Korean literature in English. So I jumped at the opportunity to read The Calligrapher’s Daughter: A Novel by the Korean-American author Eugenia Kim. Based on the life of the author’s own mother, the novel tells the story of Najin and her family during the Japanese colonization of Korea. Overall, I liked the book for the glimpse it gave into all levels of Korean society during the early 20th Century, as well as the authenticity of its storyline. I was particularly fascinated by Najin’s life at court in Seoul. Najin spends a part of her youth as a playmate to Princess Deokhye, the youngest member of the last Korean royal family, at a time when the royal family was desperately trying to hold on to their country through their traditions while grappling with Western-style modernization.

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