Shelf Life

A new chapter for Loop mainstay A Collector's Book Shop

Siegel doesn't believe that Alibris' rise is a harbinger of doom to independent used-book dealers. Many already sell through Alibris; others, like Barron, would just as soon be rid of them. Siegel says, "Some booksellers say, 'A sale is a sale is a sale. I don't care if I'm selling to Susan Siegel or I'm selling to Alibris. I'm making a sale, and I'm not concerned.' Others take a different tack and don't like to be put in the position of being Alibris' supplier. They don't want to be somebody's lackey."

One of the biggest complaints from used-book dealers who sell to Alibris is that their hard work and expertise go unacknowledged. Although stores that supply Alibris are listed on its Web site, customers don't know whether the book came from Alibris' own warehouse or from a supplier. Store owners argue that they lose potential sales if customers want to inquire about related titles.

There's a concern for identity as well. Booksellers are by nature an individualistic lot, and the character of a used-book store reflects the character of the owner. Through Alibris, Siegel says, "They lose their identity. They just become like wholesalers. They lose their identity as individual booksellers, and they want to keep that. And I think that's a legitimate issue."

Sheldon Margulis is known for kidding about a lot of things, but not the sale of his used-book shop.
Jennifer Silverberg
Sheldon Margulis is known for kidding about a lot of things, but not the sale of his used-book shop.

Siegel also reports that those independents who've closed over the last few years have done it for reasons other than having venture capitalists sitting over their heads. Some dealers are just older, she says, and, like Margulis, are tired of going to the store six and seven days a week.

A remarkable phenomenon Siegel has documented in the recent "revolution" is that for every shop that is closing, another is taking its place. The sale of A Collector's Book Shop reflects this aspect of the current book business. As Margulis moves out, Javier Parada, with what will be the new used-book store on the Loop, is moving in. Parada and his business partner, Kelly von Plonski, have been itching for a book space for some time. Suddenly, and ironically enough, thanks to Alibris, it's happening.

Parada has worked for Margulis and over the years has collected some 15,000 titles for his initial stock. The lease hasn't been signed quite yet, but Parada is confident that Subterranean Books could open as early as September.

Parada estimates that the store will mostly consist of used books, with about 10 percent new titles. He hopes to attract a younger clientele and plans to feature "counterculture and alternative" subject matter, as well as a distinctive collection of books on rock and pop music.

A Collector's Book Shop was known for its curmudgeonly feel, with signs on every aisle informing the browser on the proper way to pull out a book. Parada looks to be a bit more "people-friendly," with some music playing, some areas to sit and read. Subterranean Books looks to be a literary place to hang.

He's not planning on aligning with Alibris, or Amazon or Barnes & Noble anytime soon, though. He'll be working on getting his own Web site running before very long.

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