6 Cool Things Bookstores Do in Addition to Selling Books

Sarah Rettger

Staff Writer

Sarah spends her nights selling books (in all formats) at an independent bookstore outside Boston, and her days working on a graduate degree in between Twitter breaks. Follow her on Twitter @SarahRettger.

Bookstores sell books. We’re all clear on that, right?

But lots of stores — the smart ones — are going beyond just selling books to their customers. They’ve branched out into services, experiences, and other intangibles, and they’ve done it without abandoning their fundamental connection to books. For instance:

  • Language classes. Idlewild Books is built around the idea of travel, not just the mechanics of it. So they stock plenty of travel guides, but also fiction and narrative nonfiction, all of it organized by geographic region. If you go in for the latest Fodor’s Mexico, for instance, you’re likely to see Carlos Fuentes’ Vlad in close proximity. And if you’re hoping to be able to say more than por favor on vacation, Idlewild can help you with that too. The store offers classes in Spanish, French, and Italian, covering a range of proficiency levels.
  • Food. Book Passage doesn’t just hold signings for cookbook authors, it hosts meals based on cookbooks. The store partners with local restaurants to feed customers, and the authors make their appearance while everyone’s munching.. Instead of an hour of sitting on a folding chair (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Cooks with Books gives Book Passage a way to offer its customers a full-scale date night.
  • Book subscriptions. Quite a few stores offer some sort of book subscription package. For a fixed fee, customers get a book each month that they’re likely to enjoy. At Brazos Bookstore, it’s called Inu-Chan, taking its name from the dog in the store’s logo. RiverRun Bookstore‘s Paperback to the Future is run by Liberty Hardy, a name you may recognize from elsewhere at Book Riot. Brooklyn’s WORD Bookstore has bestselling author Sarah MacLean curating their romance novel subscription.
  • Arts and crafts. Of the fancy grown-up kind, I mean. King’s Books hosts an annual letterpress and book arts festival. You can admire other people’s work or try out some letterpressing yourself — and then watch as they use a steamroller to do the actual printing. Mike Mulligan meets Etsy!
  • Matchmaking. Back to WORD for a minute, because they offer their customers another highly necessary service: a way to hook up with other single book-minded people. The bulletin board where customers were invited to pin up their own personal ads (including, naturally, a list of favorite books) was so popular the store also started holding singles events. Finding love with another book lover? Yes, please.
  • Travel. Politics & Prose seems to like taking its customers out of the store. Like around D.C., on a walking tour of Prohibition-related sites (sorry, already sold out). Or to Paris. (Which is also sold out.) Or Tuscany. (Not yet sold out, according to their website. So if you didn’t already have bookish plans for October…)


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