Opening a used bookshop

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Posted as a comment to a guy's Live Journal.
>Hrm... what kind of used bookshop. I guess these are the things
>people like me never think too hard about. I know every bookshop
>has it's own character, each one is unique, but i don't really
>know how to answer that question.

That was just a check to see if you'd thought about it in any specific way. I hadn't when I opened Books Do Furnish A Room.

>I suppose I could say that I want to deal mainly in
>fiction/literature because that is where I am the most
>knowledgable

So do most people. So did I. Luckily I worked in an used bookshop that carried book antiquarian specialty items and a smattering of just used books and a general paperback shop before opening my own.

From the antiquarian shop I learned many things. Two of the most important: book collectors value the most irrational things. 90% of the value of a first edition is in the dust jacket. Condition is everything. You can see the logic in the latter in an old record. The snaps, crackles and pops obtrude upon your enjoyment. Early on when djs were new, mostly advertising for the book people tossed them away. So the dj is much rarer than the book itself. Collectors want most nearly like brand new they can get. They are crazy and silly in so many ways.

People want the damnest things. Working for the antiquarian shop I met men who wanted old church meeting minutes, any leatherbound book - even if it was in a language they couldn't read.

Lit., particularly fiction, is terribly common. Unless you are a first edition specialist with rare books or in an incredibly high traffic (=high rent) they may not pay the rent. Sometimes weird, silly junk will. What comes to mind? Yesterday I got $25 for a one year old SF paperback because it was only published in England. This morning $50 for an OP book on political economy. I make very good money off out-of-print historical adventure (fiction, but almost never literature).

Many of the best books from earning enough money to keep the door open are things you'd probably never think of. Outboard motor maintenance. An obscure cookbook. A self-published treacly local memoir.

> but I wouldn't want to limit myself. I'd like to
>feature independent projects on consignment whether it be books,
>zines, music, etc... and the area I am moving into has a pretty
>good "art" scene.

I do that some myself with small press mini-comics. The goodwill will never get any money. Do it because you think it is worth doing.

>I don't have much money, but I am willing to save/loan for the
>possibility.

Don't get a loan. You probably couldn't unless you have a house you can mortgage.

>I guess I am wondering what/how current bookshop owners got
>started...what their initial investments were and any other info
>that you can offer.

$1200. But in cheap Durham, NC back in 1983 in a location that would've never been big enough if the shop next door hadn't folded shortly after we opened. Even with 2400 sq. ft. I wish we had more. Three (abrupty cut to two) opened the shop. I was the only one who worked full-time. For less than minimum wage. After three years my partner was able to quit his job. For a long time it was touch and go with financial ruin peeking at us from around the corner.

>I was kicking around the idea of starting this (ad)venture as an
>online used bookstore to build up stock/customer base and then,
>when things start rolling, open a small storefront.

Many people are going the other way. Online is worth doing. You can go to yard and library sales to find books to sell.

>as you can see, I am soaked behind the ears.. So lay it on me,
>what is the reality of this idea.

I'm about typed out for tonight. I'll try to rustle up some more concrete suggestions later.

Since you are in Chicago I'd certainly think about trying to get a job with Powells. If not their shop their remainder side. Their remainders are the best anywhere.

Your feelings?

Please share your feelings about Opening a used bookshop.
Thanks,
Richard

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