Thinking Of Opening A Used Bookstore? “Don’t Do It!” Advises Bookseller Greg Gibson
Greg Gibson, the owner of the Ten Pound Island Book Company wrote about his nearly 40 year odyssey in the world of second hand books and used book stores in an excellent article called “Don’t Do It!” published here. You don’t have to be interested in collecting or the book business to enjoy this very well written story.
Many people who love books, daydream about setting up a second hand book shop. Not the paperback emporiums or remainder stores that dot many towns throughout the country, but a real general used book store where when you walk in there is an aroma of old books and the possibility that a customer will find a long sought after treasure.
Running a used book store is a profession that will not make you rich and runs counter-intuitive to the notion that publishing is in a perpetual state of decline and printed books are dying.
Used bookstores that keep regular hours that are open to the public are called open shops. Where there were literally thousands of open shops in the United States twenty years ago, there are about 1,000 in existence today, victims of a combination of an aging populace; both proprietors and collectors/readers, changing technology and rising rents.
Fewer people have the opportunity to apprentice in a used book store and get the experience necessary to open their own book business. Barely making enough money to survive also discourages many young people from considering books as a career. This is why it is mostly retirees who will entertain the book store notion as a career. The internet has changed the pricing structure for used books and many people who deal in used books do so via mail order through the internet or by eBay without a thorough knowledge of books.
While not completely a warning against going into the book business, the article does describe the lessons Gibson took many years to learn. If you still have dreams of running a used book store, you can get some valuable advice from Gibson before you start on your venture.