Coverdale Community Column - December 2010
Unchained: Cover to Cover Books
Blame it on doppelganger chains, discounters, online shopping and, lately, ebooks. The hard fact is that twenty years ago the U.S.A. had about 5000 independent bookstores. Today? Maybe 1500.
Not good news for a biblioholic, like me, who never saw a book she did not crave to hold, read and own. (Paperback romances excepted!)
So, although I might visit a chain, shop online, download and toy with the idea of Kindle, my bias is for real books sold in real bookstores by real book people. That’s why I chatted recently with Susie Hare, owner of Cover To Cover (C to C) books, about the challenges and joys of being of an “indie” bookseller in the 21st century.
A liberal arts major at Sonoma State focused on Elementary Ed., Susie became active in the respected family business, Growers Supply in Geyserville, where they provide “what people need”. About 8 years ago, noting that Cloverdale lacked a bookstore, she decided to open Cover To Cover to provide “what people want” and, at the same time, make a contribution to our community’s life and economy. It meant getting to know an entirely different customer base as well as a complex, constantly changing business.
After a stay on 1st Street, moving to the popular Antiques and Uniques building on So. Cloverdale Blvd. provided increased contact with downtown shoppers including regional and out of state tourists while being directly opposite the Underground Café, with its great coffee and healthy menu, created a tempting combo: a good read with a good feed!
C To C is an attractive, inviting space with cheerful colors and head-high open bookshelves, comfy seating and a variety of gift ideas including (hint to my family and friends): games; puzzles; music; bookends; soaps; candles; greeting cards and more. Add an owner blessed with a rare instinct for knowing when to chat and when to leave you to yourself and it all makes for relaxed browsing and hassle-free buying.
Susie is a “huge reader” whose late mother-in-law, Pat Hare’s, work on behalf of our library resulted in its community room being named in her honor. Oddly enough, being a bookseller means less time to read at will or at random due to all the “sampling” time required to keep up with new releases so she can knowledgeably talk books with customers, recommend titles for the whole family and recognize the value of recommendations received.
Unlike chains, C to C doesn’t lease its prime display space for piles of one or two titles in an attempt to tell you what to read. Rather, you find a range of genres, titles, authors (including locals who have done signings there) and even gently used books. The choice is yours because Susie knows her customers are “indies”, too!
Don’t believe the rumor that youth isn’t reading traditional books. Susie sells lots of kid and teen lit., including for book reports and papers. Many young people love to recycle so used books could become a bigger part of C to C’s inventory. Donated books are sold to benefit our library, too. Any chain do that?
What’s popular these days? Escapism! As Susie observed, many of us welcome a chance “to go into someone else’s life for a while” so mysteries are big and, for teens, it’s still vampires.
Nimbler and more responsive than chains or online retailers, C to C adapts quickly as customers’ tastes and needs change. For example, Susie’s looking into offering ebooks at competitive prices while customer service remains both sincere and efficient. No email hell or “Please hold” here.
Prices? Surprise! C To C can beat chains and onlines. Susie’s supplier is one of U.S. leaders. As a result, the myth of higher costs is dispelled as she explains how buying is now simplified, electronic and global. To gain a price advantage, C To C’s orders are bundled with others. On a special order, C To C passes on savings from free shipping and you’ll likely receive it in 3 days.
Story time’s up! To learn the rest visit Susie in person at Cover To Cover; 124 No. Cloverdale Blvd.; Tues.-Fri. 10-6; Sat. 10-5; 707-894-4556.