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Your Perfect Used Book Store

  1. Oct 12, 2009 #1
    My friend and I are thinking of starting a used book store.

    Could you tell me what you really look for in a small book store?

    We are planning to specialize in Fiction, we will by back books in good/great condition, and we will have a coffee/tea shop. We are also planning to have an on-line presence probably with Amazon or one of its competitors. We will sell new books, we will try to carry whatever we can find (fiction/novel wise) that Book-a-million does not carry on hand.
    Our only serious competitor is the books a million in the next town nearly forty minutes away.

    There is another used book store where you could find every romance novel that has ever been mass produced : )
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2009 #2
    I enjoy book stores that have books on science that are more specialized but can still be read by a regular, non-educated person. For example the book Fermat's Enigma by Simon Singh fits this since it can be read by someone who has no experience in math, yet it talks about something very specific. Going through a science section that has books on introductory sciences can be as intimidating as very specific subjects because most non scientists usually don't know where to begin and what is important.

    I think having some sort of book club can help - maybe a meeting once a month or having authors or book fanatics come to the store. i think this shows your customers that you are more than just a business and it allows them to collect to the 'writing community' in a way that you can't get from a big book store.

    Also, having a cat in the window makes me happy :)
     
  4. Oct 12, 2009 #3
    The used book store I go, buys back the books I bought from them. They set up a account, and when you return the books they credit my account 30% of what I bought the book for. It has to be in great shape, like no stains or turned over page tops.
    What I really enjoy is that they have great selections on pets, local wildlife as well as fiction and biographies. They also have several book clubs, for various ages.
     
  5. Oct 12, 2009 #4

    Monocerotis

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    Physics Forums - The Book Store

    set up a used book shop where you can purchase and talk math/science stuff with people, and also get some help with problems related to work/study.

    THAT'S GOLD JERRY !
    bania2.jpg
     
  6. Oct 12, 2009 #5

    Chi Meson

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    The Perfect Used Bookstore

    is in Niantic, Connecticut

    It is
    http://www.bookbarnniantic.com/" [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Oct 12, 2009 #6

    turbo

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    We don't have any perfect used book stores in Maine, but if you want tools, there is:

    http://www.jonesport-wood.com/jwLibToolPhotos.html [Broken]

    Not perfect, but you can blow a whole day there easily and never scratch the surface if you are a tool-hound. One of my biker-buddies was the former head of the Maine Warden Service, and he and I LOVE tools. If we got down that way, our wives would roll their eyes and brace for a multi-hour stopover, congratulating each other that we were on Harleys and not driving pickups that could carry our booty. No worries! Liberty Tool would gladly put purchases aside so you could pick them up later.
     
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  8. Oct 12, 2009 #7

    lisab

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    That one looks nice, Chi, a small mom-and-pop type of place.

    If you're aiming higher, Pattonias, take a road trip to http://www.powells.com/" [Broken] in Portland, Oregon.

    Just curious, where are you planning to open this store?
     
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  9. Oct 12, 2009 #8
    I never went to a used book store but I love old bookstores (with old lights):

    http://img169.imageshack.us/img169/2372/1233118263au3zsxv.jpg [Broken]

    http://img245.imageshack.us/img245/2372/1233118263au3zsxv.jpg [Broken]
     
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  10. Oct 12, 2009 #9

    Chi Meson

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    Oh, It ain't small. My wife and I used to live three blocks from Powell's in Portland. One thing tha Powell's has that Book Barn doesn't is their very own parking garage, and the cafe, but as for size and selection, Book Barn is very close.

    Book barn has just opened a third location. The original location is the barn itself, plus four annex buildings. Amidst the annexes is a small playground, a goldfish pond and garden, a goat pen, and two-dozen cats. We go there with the three kids just for an outing, just as we used to go to Powell's, just for a coffee.
     
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  11. Oct 12, 2009 #10

    lisab

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    Wow, that sounds like a great place...a book store with a goat pen, very nice :approve:.

    I never knew you lived in Portland!
     
  12. Oct 12, 2009 #11

    Evo

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    Sounds nice, I guess you really need to get a feel for what is popular among residents in your area, if you want to physically draw people into the store.

    Loyalty discounts, where the more you buy the more "points" or discounts you get always draw me in. Even little perks where if they buy 5 books they get a free beverage or cookie might be nice and wouldn't cost you much. I like those little extras, makes me want to come back.
     
  13. Oct 12, 2009 #12

    Chi Meson

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    It was in a previous life. 1992--1995. I was working as a bike/ski tech in the REI at Jantzen Beach. four-day work week. Bike, climb, ski the other three. That was the life.

    *********Heavy sigh***********
     
  14. Oct 12, 2009 #13

    turbo

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    It doesn't cost much to keep a coffee-pot going, the employees will love it, and the customers will greatly appreciate the chance to grab a cup and cozy up with a book or two. Good for business.

    It doesn't have to be expensive coffee - folks around here like the chance to drop in on a dry-goods store, general store, etc, and pour themselves a cup and kick back with neighbors. The ambiance of a store can turn it into a local favorite very quickly, with pretty good bottom-line effects.
     
  15. Oct 12, 2009 #14

    lisab

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    Aaaaaahhhh....yes, that sounds like the perfect life. (Except for the bike part, not a big fan.)
     
  16. Oct 12, 2009 #15

    mgb_phys

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    Not wishing to rain on your parade but .....
    Amazon will sell any new fiction best seller for 50% off and you can get pretty much any mass market paperback used from Amazon/Abebooks for $2.75 inc postage in the USA.

    Most used bookshops buy used paperbacks by the pallet load from dealers that buy up bankrupt shops or bulk buy salvation army/goodwill donation bins.
    These shops generally survive by selling for 1c +postage on amazon - customers in the door are the profit margin.
    If you are in a small town and can build up a loyal local customer base (by having events, hosting book clubs etc) or are in a tourist spot and have a through trade of visitors buying Tom Clancy to read on the beach.
    Otherwise in a big city you best hope is probably to specialize (sci-fi, art, phtoography etc)

    if you are in a small New England town with a university - things might be different ;-)
    Good luck - but like opening a restaurant, the odds are against you.
     
  17. Oct 12, 2009 #16

    Moonbear

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    I haven't seen a good used book store in AGES! When I was a student, there were two or three in town that I frequented often (hmmm...that sounds redundant). While some people may want books in good condition, the one I liked best as a poor student was the one that also bought back the dog-eared, yellowed, not-so-great condition, but still perfectly readable books. They bought them quite cheap and then sold them very cheaply too. I was willing to risk buying bad books when I could get a stack of them for 50 cents or a dollar each (that might be $1-$2 by now). Better condition books sold at a higher price.

    The most important thing about a good used book store is to have knowledgeable staff. You get some people like me who are content to spend hours browsing shelves looking for something that just jumps out and says "take me home," but a lot more customers want someone to recommend something good or point them in the right direction for a particular genre.

    Oh, and yes, they had a program for the smut...I mean...romance novels. They bought them back at some cheap price...like 10 for $1. When people are burning through Harlequin romances, it works out better than nothing. (My aunts and grandmother used to buy a stack of them, pass them around to one another, and then take a bag of them back, and considered it a discount toward their next purchase.)

    I like the idea of coffee...and some comfy chairs, not cafe tables. I'd love a bookstore and coffee shop with some brightly colored, mismatched sofas or chairs. I also like the idea of running a bookclub, so make the seating area large enough to accomodate a small book club in a circle.
     
  18. Oct 12, 2009 #17
    Amazon is OK but nothing beats hands on rummaging through old books for me. There is something of an AH HA feeling when I find that special book.

    Our local used book store, Bookmans, has started buying and selling used CD's DVD's and software.
     
  19. Oct 12, 2009 #18
    Theres a bookstore downtown Toronto I used to go to. They sold philosophy books for around 10$ while if you bought them new they were closer to 70$. The books were basically in brand new condition anyways... well most of them at least :) It was 2 stories plus a basement of comics and stuff of that sort. Too bad it's such a mission to get over there.
     
  20. Oct 13, 2009 #19
    Lisab Already mentioned my perfect book store.
    :swoon:


    My primary concern at a book store is selection. The reason I rarely go to used book stores unless I do not have much money is because I can rarely find the authors I am looking for. That's unfortunately not something you can control very well. If an author is popular or new it is less likely they will be found in a used book store and usually when the store does get them in they sell really quickly. Since I do not run a used book store I would really have no idea what you can do to try to make sure to keep a good selection of stock available, sorry. :-/

    Having a bookstore/cafe is probably a good idea. You just have to make sure that you are not competing against a starbucks or B&N/Starbucks. Getting a proper business license for this will probably be more difficult though and require more upkeep.
     
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  21. Oct 13, 2009 #20
    What I like about the bookstores I visit is:
    There cheap. Like, seriously...
    They have vinyl records. Where else do you find those?
    Things I don't like:
    Not a wide enough selection.
    Not enough technical books.
     
  22. Oct 13, 2009 #21
    I really appreciate all the feedback, this is really great.

    Here is a little more information.

    I will be opening this store in Starkville, Mississippi. (North Mississippi)
    In town, there are two bookstores. The University bookstore (Barnes & Nobles), and a small general book store in downtown. The University sells textbooks and school merchandise and not much else. The non-school books they have are really limited, mostly just the popular stuff at any given moment.
    The downtown bookstore is about the same, they have a wider selection, but I don't think they are very serious. They have school spirit supplies and popular books, they display all their books face out in the book shelves so you can imagine that they don't have that wide of a selection.
    I was really interested in starting a book store because I thought the nearest serious book store (mega store) was over an hour away in Tupelo. I was distressed when I discovered that Book-a-million had a unlisted (not on website) store in Columbus. This is about 30 mins away and I though perhaps I could not compete. I drove over a looked at it yesterday to "case the joint."
    They have the usual selection, but it was badly organized. For the most part, it was arranged by author followed by name of book. This meant if you were looking for a series of books you already had to know the series in your head or find a book in which it was listed, then search until you located the next book. It also appeared that they did not check to make sure that books were where they were supposed to be. It seemed like every fifth book was randomly grabbed from somewhere else in the store. I imagine this is a result of careless people searching. The coffee shop is not worth mentioning.
    (In their defense I succumbed and left with thirty dollars worth of merchandise... Damned my eyes.)

    Now, thirty dollars poorer, I am thinking about what I have to do to make an impression.

    I can't compete with the overall selection of this store with my budget.

    I can provide the knowledgeable staff as long as the people that work there are familiar with the subject matter.

    I want this to be a place where people can come to read and grab some coffee, not just be a place to buy books.

    I want it to be a place where I can go and read and buy some coffee.


    There is nowhere withen 2 hours where you can buy decent fiction. Seriously, the selection is lousy around here and I feel I can't be the only one who things so. If I can provide the missing link, and organize it in a way that makes since.

    By author, by series by alphabet, chron where appropriate. I think I could make looking for a particular book very easy.

    As far as the Amizon thing goes, I will have to do a lot of research. I am really just using that as an example. I do know that most of that "bulk fiction" is total crap. Todays pulp fiction really has to be examined carefully.

    It just occured to me that there really isn't anywhere where you can buy good books on CD either.

    Thank you so much for the input, I never really expected this much. Keep it coming : )
     
  23. Oct 13, 2009 #22

    IMP

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    You could name it ReBook or Rebook or Re-Book. I like that name for a used book store.
     
  24. Oct 13, 2009 #23

    turbo

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    If you're going to buy used books from potential customers, remember that some of the most inveterate readers are ladies who LOVE bodice-rippers, and you may end up overstocked in that genre, at least until they start buying your other offerings in that vein. My sister-in-law and my wife blaze through murder mysteries, and those have a pretty popular following across genders, so guys will buy them.

    There is a small chain of bookstores here in Maine (selling new and remaindered books) that used to have a pretty nice selection of science-fiction, until they started salting in lots of fantasy about 15-20 years ago, and now, any real science fiction is rare, compared to the witchcraft/dragon stuff. Hopefully, you will have enough space (and knowledgeable employees) to properly display such genres without inter-mixing them. Nothing like trying to hunt down a novel by Dick, Heinlein, etc, and having to wade through shelves of fantasy to find something. If you are a sci-fi fan, you already know this, but it was a pet peeve of mine, back when I could still venture into bookstores.

    Good luck with your venture. Once you let people know that you'll buy used books, you'll probably get calls from estates, like "Gramps bought every Civil War book he could get his hands on, and we need to clear out that library/study so we can put the house on the market."
     
  25. Oct 13, 2009 #24

    BobG

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    Ironically, having to compete against a Starbucks is more likely to increase your initial business than decrease it. I'm not sure it would even put a cap on your total business, since the goal of the coffee is really to obtain book customers.

    There's exceptions if you're talking about a well established coffee shop that's been around for a while, but most coffee shops will first attract people that happen to be in the neighborhood for some other reason. It takes a long time to become an attraction that actually draws customers to a neighborhood just to visit your coffee shop.

    Starbucks already has a national reputation and customers will visit it if it's anywhere close to where they're at or to the route they follow to get somewhere else. The Starbucks draws customers to the neighborhood that happen to be interested in coffee. When Starbucks is too busy, or just because some of the potential Starbucks customers happen to notice they could get both coffee and books, the local coffee shop is going to pick up new customers at a faster rate than they normally would.

    Of course, the coffee has to taste as good as Starbucks and the book selection has to be good, but Starbucks isn't quite as likely to put the local coffee shops out of business as people would think and I think that would be doubly so in this case when the primary business is selling books.

    Competing against a store that sells new books might not be that disastorous, either. I'm less sure about a used book store competing against a B&N or Borders, but they might actually be complementary businesses. The main resource you'll be competing for is time - does a customer have time and inclination to browse both a new book store and a used book store on the same shopping trip.



    Whose going to clean the coffee stains out of the comfy chairs?

    I guess some seat covers that are easily laundered and cheap to replace would be a necessity, as well (that's my philosophy on Jeep seat covers, anyway, and shower curtain liners shouldn't even be washed, they're so cheap).
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2009
  26. Oct 13, 2009 #25

    lisab

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    One key thing to keep in mind: you'll be making money from books, but what you're *selling* is a feeling. Books are readily available online, after all.

    But if the store is welcoming and comforting, with maybe a fire and jazz or classical music playing (not too loud of course), people will associate a nice, cozy feeling with the store...and your books.

    Other things that go along with this:

    The color scheme of the place. If you aren't good at decorating, get help from a friend or maybe even a professional.

    The smell. Old books can be musty and dusty, which isn't inviting.

    Keep it clean. Clutter is one thing...most old book stores have a bit of clutter. But keep surfaces free from dust.
     
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