RTW: My Bookstore

For this week’s Road Trip Wednesday challenge, the YA Highway team has posed a very interesting question:

Imagine you get to open your own bookstore. What would it look like? What kinds of books would you sell?

I’m sure I’m not the only bibliophile to have considered this question. For a number of years, I’ve often thought about the kind of bookstore I would operate if I had the means to establish one. Usually after a frustrating experience with an existing bookstore! So, here’s my bookstore…

First, I would be independently wealthy–and I mean J-K-Rowling-Bill-Gates independently wealthy–such that I could cover the annual operating costs from my own pocket if necessary. I would probably establish a foundation to run it, allowing people and/or organizations to contribute to its running. This way the bookstore wouldn’t depend upon turning a profit, which in turn would mean that I could stock books that are slow-sellers, offer books at prices that compete with online retailers, and, in certain cases, give books away. It would also mean the store wouldn’t be subject to the usual financial storms that derail many independent operations (the big bookstore chains, an unstable economy, etc.)–a comfort to both my staff and my customers.

The store itself would consist of three floors, each with about the same square footage (or more) as the average Barnes and Noble. The 1st floor (ground floor in the UK) would stock new books. The selection of books would, naturally, reflect my interests: theology, fiction, history, language, and music. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you would find in each section.

Theology: Works of academic interest (satisfying scholars, students, and “educated laity”), as well as good, solid, substantive Christian books (including devotionals, and works aimed at the “man-in-the-pew”).

Fiction: A healthy selection of the classics (expect to see the entire Penguin Classics range), as well as what I and my staff consider to be the best of a variety of genres (YA, NA, suspense, thriller, romance, detective, etc.). Because the store isn’t driven by profit, I wouldn’t have to stock books simply because they will sell (*cough* FIFTY SHADES… *cough*) and can give prominence to lesser-known authors we consider worthy of attention.

History: This will run the gamut from ancient to modern: British, American, European, military–you name it. Again, I’m not simply looking for books that will sell, but the best on the subject. My staff and I will research and consult to come up with a selection that is both broad and deep.

Language: In this section you will find foreign language learning tools, along with a wide selection of books in those languages (e.g., Harry Potter in Spanish, German, French, Chinese, etc.). You will also find reference and how-to books on writing (dictionaries, thesauruses, Stephen King’s ON WRITING, etc.).

Music: Books on music theory, instrument tuition books, books about musicians–classical and popular, sheet music, etc.

And that’s just the ground/1st floor! Upstairs, the entire floor would be dedicated to used books. I’m not necessarily going to be as selective about the used books we sell. The idea I have for this is that people will have the option to donate books, or use the store as a means to sell their used books. If they donate, the store keeps whatever money is made. If we sell on their behalf, then we send a check to them when their books sell.

The basement floor will be the coffee shop/lounge. Patrons will be able to go down there to read, work (we will have store-wide WiFi), or just relax with a beverage. We will host author speaking and signing events there, and on select evenings invite local musicians to play. We will have a “collection box” for patrons to show their appreciation to invited talent, in addition to the honorarium from the store. The basement will also have small, sound-proof conference rooms for meetings (e.g., writing groups, book clubs, NaNoWriMo-related events, etc.).

So, yes, I’ve thought about it some. Sound like a place you’d visit? What would your bookstore look like? Use the comments below, or take part in this week’s Road Trip Wednesday yourself (see the YA Highway blog for details).

And don’t forget my Book of the Year 2012 Giveaway! Only a few more days left to enter!!

36 Responses to RTW: My Bookstore

  1. Sounds like you’ve thought about this a lot! And yes, I’d definitely visit. I like the idea of combining sales of new and used books, since I’ve usually seen those as two separate stores. It’s be nice to browse upstairs for some deals, and then hit the main floor for whatever new book I’ve been waiting to see come out.

    • Thanks, Nickie! It’s nice to actually set out in words the concept that’s been floating around my head for years.

      Of course, you could then take your book selections downstairs and enjoy them over a cup of your favorite beverage. Or you could work on your novel! :)

  2. Oh man, I love what you have here! The idea of running it as a non-profit is pure genius. That’s a great way to bring a literary fixture to a community that needs it—and these days, they all do! Love having the space for people to read, work, and see authors too. I hope you come into a heap of cash and can make this a reality!

    • Thanks, Sarah! I hate to see bookshops going under, and it would be great to think that enough people within a community would help provide funds to keep one operational. I especially like the idea of being able to give books to people that otherwise couldn’t afford them, and being able to support and promote authors other bookstores might overlook in favor of those with big names and big publishers behind them.

  3. It definitely sounds like somewhere I would visit. Dreaming is such a wonderful way to spend a morning. As you said on my blog, this would be a place to learn and grow, not just to buy. Love it!

    • Thanks, Rebekah. And yes, absolutely–not just a place to buy books, but a place to learn, grow, meet people, or just get away for a few hours to read, think, or write.

  4. Yes, independently wealthy–that’s brilliant! Then you can stock anything you want.

    • I confess that I cringe sometimes when I walk into B&N and see the books being promoted in favor of titles that I think deserve better. I think I mentioned on a previous blog the urge I had one day to tear down a display of 50 SHADES books and replace it with Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT, or Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME. So many other, more worthy books (at least IMO)! :)

  5. I wonder if the not-for-profit bookstore will become a common feature as libraries lose their funding and bookstores are driven out by Amazon. It could be a totally workable hybrid. You could even add a book exchange feature to your used section–something between Netflix and free libraries, perhaps? Love this idea!

    • Oooo!!! I love the bookstore-library hybrid idea, Jess! That would totally work within my model. The used section could indeed be set up as a book donation/loan/purchase kind of thing. Thanks! :)

      • Of course, as an author, I have to say there’s one teensy issue with used books–no royalties. I do love UBS’s, but every time I buy a used book, I think about how the author isn’t getting paid for it. πŸ˜›

        • I understand–there’s a dilemma there: the desire to promote reading, and the desire to put food on your plate! Hopefully making the library/used bookstore part of the general bookstore… and the fact that the store is being funded out of my very deep pockets (at least in this fantasy), would satisfy that. :)

  6. This sounds pretty darn fantastic, Colin! It takes everything I love about a bunch of different types of bookstores, adds in some really great new ideas, and ends up basically being my dream bookstore. I do love a good secondhand bookshop, so having that in the same place as one with brand new shiny books, is pretty awesome. I also like the idea for the basement floorβ€”live music, a lounge, conference rooms… Here’s hoping you become independently wealthy and can make this happen! :)

    • Thanks, Jaime! And when you mix in Jess’s idea of making the upstairs a kind of hybrid library/used bookstore, this place becomes all kinds of awesome. There are a lot of unpleasant things that seem to go along with having huge amounts of money–but being able to do this would possibly make it worthwhile. :)

  7. That sounds amazing! I love the ideas of stocking books in different languages and having sound-proof conference rooms. I wish this bookstore was real now because I really want to go there.

    • Thanks, Rachael! I thought it would be nice to have somewhere a local book club could go where they could drink tea/coffee/chocolate and talk as loudly as they want about the books they’re reading, without bothering anyone else in the store. Making it part of the lounge area in the store seemed to make sense. :)

  8. Sounds like an awesome bookstore! :)

  9. Bookstore sounds awesome. I like the idea of an upstairs devoted to used books. Plus the basement level sounds like a great place for a reading and writing community. Great job.

    • Thanks, Carrie! I do see the downstairs/basement as the “lounge”/community area, where you can read on your own, or socialize with others, and also enjoy whatever events the store is hosting. :)

  10. I love that you have thought about the financing of this, in order to achieve what you’d want to with a bookshop. How great that your store would support slow sellers etc – I’d definitely visit! And I’m bring my writing group to the basement!

    • Thanks, Vikki! Your writing group would all be welcome. We’d even cater to the group from the coffee shop. We would serve only the best imported English tea for our UK customers. πŸ˜€

      • Your UK Customers are very pleased to hear it! English Breakfast PG Tips for me please πŸ˜‰

        • Assam is my favorite–just about any brand (my mum sends me Punjana). But even Tesco’s store brand tea is better than most of the stuff they call tea in the US. Sorry, fellow US citizens… :)

  11. Okay, when are you opening because I would travel long distances to go to THAT bookstore. Love it!

    • Thank you, Melanie! πŸ˜€ If I ever manage to build this bookstore, I will at that time be richer than Rowling, and I’ll be able to fly all my blog friends in for the grand opening. So make sure you’re available, whenever that might be! :)

  12. Sounds nice, Colin! I’ll be in the basement with a cup of tea as I hold a book signing/writing class πŸ˜‰

  13. I love when bookstores have new and used books together – books are books, so why separate them? (Plus, it’s one less stop for me to make, haha.)

    • Since making a profit wouldn’t be a big concern for me, I wouldn’t worry about used books detracting from the sale of new books. As for author royalties, I would make sure the new books we stock are all paid for (either by me or from the foundation)–the author (and publisher) will get royalties from them whether we manage to sell them on or not. That’s my concept, anyway. :)

  14. I love the idea of having more foreign language novels. Most bookstores I frequent have some in spanish, but nothing else. I have to scour the internet to pick up my russian books.

    • Thanks, Rachel! Our local B&N has a healthy stock of Spanish language novels, but not much else in other languages (aside from instruction books). I’m fascinated with languages (and Russian is on my list of languages to at least become acquainted with), so this section is an absolute must! :)

  15. I love that you included conference rooms to facilitate local reading and writing groups. Nice touch! While I obviously like new books, I have a special appreciation for used book shopping. It’s kind of like treasure hunting because you never know what you’ll find, so that aspect of your bookstore plan is very appealing. Definitely sounds like a store I could spend some time in!

    • Thanks, Erin! As brick-and-mortar stores struggle to find their identity these days, it’s things like that (conference rooms for reading/writing groups) that I think will draw people in. As I’ve said before, in our digital world, bookstores need to be about more than selling books. :)

  16. I suppose your vision is partly based on that used book store in Hay-on-Wye. Didn’t it have multi-stories (ha! ha!)?

    • Ha ha… “stories”… I see what you did there… πŸ˜‰ The store in Hay-on-Wye was certainly large, but it was just a used book shop–and as far as I recall, it didn’t have a coffee shop. For size, though, that shop would be a start. :)

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