I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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Communiteabooks.com has been an ongoing process for a long-time coming. Several years ago, as I’ve mentioned in previous blog entries, I started selling books online at abebooks.com, and I focused, primarily, on collectible (signed, first editions, etc.) fiction. It was an excellent step towards learning how to sell product online, and to understand my market. As I learned what people where interested in, and how to list books in a way that people expected my business increased steadily, and, at the time, I was in a relationship with a woman that had two kids living with us and a third in college: I was maintaining a full-time job, as well as being a full-time stepparent, and trying to manage finding books, uploading them, processing the orders, and packaging and shipping them. My, of course, became exceptionally difficult. I tried to start my own website and take on the challenges of developing an online bookstore back then, but I just couldn’t do it.
When I moved back to Boerne, Texas I discovered that I not only the time, but an opportunity to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore, Wardrobe Books in The Boerne Emporium on Main Street, a three story multi-vendor shop in the center of town. Business there was better than I could have imagined. I did some minor marketing, and attended a handful of Chamber Ribbon Cuttings and Mixers. After a few short months business had become almost more than one person could maintain. Working also as a freelance short story writer, writing articles, and maintaining a music column for The Hill Country Weekly, as well as helping Steve Artale with catering, at the Hungry Horse.
Until that point Wardrobe Books was a project, only. In the sense that I was able to offer a small used bookstore to the community of Boerne, but it wasn’t something that could maintain, and support my livelihood. Wardrobe Books was also, always, only a means to an end. CommuniTea Books is the dream, my seven year the goal. Wardrobe Books, though time consuming, and personally rewarding would never support me, or a family.
When The Boerne Emporium sold unexpectedly, and everyone in it was removed, I felt uncertain--lost. Yes, it was a project, but it was a project that was supposed to lead me to the steps of CommuniTea Books. I worked for a bookstore in Santa Fe, and, at one point, one location would no longer be available, and the store would have to move. The patrons gathered together and all but established an assembly line passing books from one person to another until they found their home on the shelves of a new store. I could imagine that happening between Wardrobe Books and Communitea Books.
I considered starting a website as I boxed my books up and carried bricks down the two flights of stairs to my car, but no host allowed me to import the 1000+ books I had as an export file from abebooks.com when I closed that account. The idea of uploading every book again, and the hundreds more that I had collected since was overwhelming.
I looked for other avenues to pursue CommuniTea Books. And for one reason or another each faced hurdles, so, in the meantime, I thought "whatthehell", it could be fun. Sorting through all my books again: looking at them, touching them, smelling them, old memories returning. I sat down, and a built a website, and the process is ongoing, nevertheless I’m proud of what it has become so far.
I sit on my couch, my back and neck braced, my legs up, multiple stacks of books on the table next to me, an electric drink warmer with a mug of homemade ‘Golden Milk:’ turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, milk (and a few other spices), and I type the information of each book into a database on the backend of my website host. I decide the price based, first, on the type of book: New, Used, Remainder, Rare, or Collectible. New books are, obviously, listed at list price. Used books I start at 50% list price. Remainder books start at below 50% list price. And I look at the condition of each book, the books market value, and more and the price is affected as such. Rare and Collectible Books are decided my market value and condition—and I stay below the average market value for that particular title depending on the condition of the book. For every book, I do this. I now have 1100 books listed at communiteabooks.com, and I’m still going strong listing.
Building the website and marketing as I go, I sit at my couch, sipping my Golden Milk, putting each book in a box and labeling it, so I know where to look once a book has been ordered I list books. In the background, more often than not, I have Pandora playing, lately it’s been African Drum music—Djembe music. Sometime I’ll listen to James McMurtry radio, Brown Bird, or Andrew Bird radio. I finished the entirety of Parks & Rec, it’s a good show but not nearly as good as The Office, if you ask me. They give each other a lot of shit in The Office but there is a genuine comradery there; Parks & Rec everyone is pretty nasty to one another, and every now and again, when it seems to be getting to be too much someone will say, “Well, everything aside, you know I love you.” And it’s supposed to be a forgiving and understanding moment. Tom, played by Anziz Ansari, always does the wrong thing, every time. Without fail, especially in public, pushing himself, being selfish, and later alone with whomever he wronged, he says something along the lines of, “I’m sorry. I know I messed up. I’m just insecure, or I have nothing, or I always seem to fail…” and everything is supposed to be cool again. AAAHHH! Dude, you suck, because of how you act in public, change that, and you won’t fail… come on. It’s irritating, sorry, right BOOKS…
This website has been my baby. You can always feel free to contact me. If you are looking for a book, I will find it for you, whether I have it in stock or not, and if I have to order it I’ll add only $1 to the cost of the book, which is to say, that when all is said and done, the profit margin for me is only $1. I do this as a service and you, the customer, shouldn’t have to pay more for that service. I will research and find anything you’re looking for: an old, leather copy of Pride & Prejudice under $20? I’ll figure it out. Book Appraisals? I offer it. Book Club Reading Ideas? Absolutely.
And soon I will begin taking used books from you, if you want a place to send them, I’ll take them. I’ll offer store credit for anything available online, or that I might have to order. If you are looking for cash for your books, I’ll evaluate them, and make an offer. I’ll accept donations. I’ll send books to schools, shelters, and various programs.
Today I’ll have added a handful of Audio Books, and have created a new section link directly off the home page to view them. And if you have any suggestions, let me know.
The communiteabooks.com website will lead us to the stairs of CommuniTea Books, and I’ll follow it all the way.
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Imagine walking up to a bookstore: there is a patio out front, three or four tables, with umbrellas, sitting in one a young woman with a book in her hand, there’s a notebook on the table next to her—she takes it with her, everywhere she goes—a ceramic cup of tea, not uniform, it’s unique, the closer you look it might seem unusual even, in fact everyone outside, sitting on the tables has a different ceramic cup, she looks up a moment, at you, but not, she’s looking through you, she had read something that’s intrigued her, you can see it in her eyes, her red hair—you only just noticed—catches the sunlight drifting from behind the Royal blue—or Prussian blue, even—building with cream trim, you realize then that she’s not looking at you, she’s looking through you, and your attention is redirected to an older couple walking slowly past you with paper cups, and plastic lids, a steam quickly rises from an opening in the lid. There’s a sign, along the sidewalk, the wind has caught it, and it’s swaying back, and forth, CommuniTea Books, the sign reads. A picture of an open book with the pages spread at the center, and the outline of a teacup resting on the pages. BOOKSTORE, a rusted metal sign reads, it’s resting on the roof, above the porch.
At the door you notice, in the window to your right, on display several books: some are old, others just look cool, or have that unique collectible feel. You notice a First Printing of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, another First Printing, this one is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.
Oh, is that who wrote that, I always seem to forget that, you think to yourself.
There’s a couple handfuls of an assortment of children’s books, art books, cooking, and books that you didn’t make heads-or-tails of. The swing on the porch to your left is caught in the wind, it’s empty, and you scan the porch—taking it all in.
As you open the door there are two small square tables in front of you, but not directly, the tables create the illusion of a hallway, at the center of the store leading towards the back door. On your right a small room with three small round tables, one is empty. A man in formal wear, his jacket is hugging his chair, he has a computer in front of him, and there’s a teapot behind it, a ceramic mug on the table--his right handed, you think. Surrounding the room, from floor-to-ceiling, are bookshelves, they have been built into the walls. The room to the left is much larger, and again, surrounded with bookshelves—floor-to-ceiling. Five or six tables rest at the center of the room, most are full. People are reading, studying, talking, and almost all of them are drinking tea.
The two small square tables in front of you are staked, and displayed with books, they look new, and without checking the title you take one and look for a mark: a small red dot, or a black line on either the top or bottom of the pages, near the spine. You find one, Remainder books. As you put the book back on the table you try to remember where you first heard about remainders. You browse the titles on the tables, you love the prices of remainder books, because they’re all brand new, but only $3-5 each. You scan the store, creating a mental image, a panoramic reminder. There are two large, dinner tables in the ‘hallway’ ahead of you, between you and the back door. They too are stacked, and displayed with remainder books. All the books on the shelves are used. The remainders are on tables, while the new books are all located to your left, in the large room where the art, photography, and cooking books are also found.
You stand in line on the opposite end of the large room to your left, the tea menu in your hand is almost overwhelming, you scanned each item, at first looking for something appealing, and then only to count the choices, you stop counting and start making some kind of deduction--more than 80!, you think. There are Black Teas, Green, Herbal, Japanese, Flower, Middle Eastern, Mate, Chinese, Matcha, Russian, Chai, White, Infused, Oolong, Pu Erh, Rooibos, and Ayurvedic, as well as a small selection of coffees, and smoothies, and there tea smoothies, even. You can’t decide between a Sweet Orange Mate Smoothie and an Aged Pu-erh, aged 25 years.
This isn’t our typical bookstore—you think.
As you sip on your tea you notice, for the first time, stacks of books under the tables, and in corners, there are standalone bookshelves in one of the rooms with books stacked on top, a pair of French doors are propped open letting the air in from the side patio, outside. While your browsing leads you to a small set of stairs leading upwards, inside is the children’s department. Several kids are huddled together in a circle, one of them appears to be reading to the others, in the opposite corner a mother is reading to her two small kids. A papier-mâché tree is built in to what looks like was once a closet, and a couple kids are playing while another sits inside, on the second level, reading to himself. The area of the children’s section astonishes you, at first. You remember, of course, that this small Hill Country town is particularized by its schools.
While you’re browsing the shelves, in Fiction/Literature, you happen upon the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, and are stunned, you had almost forgotten, because you haven’t seen this book in years. Removing the book from the shelf you put it in your hand next to High Fidelity by Nick Hornby, A Piece of My Heart by Richard Ford, and The Sea by John Banville. Stunned by your find you take another lap around the store skimming Non-Fiction: History, Science, Psychology, Business, Religion, Reference, the books on consignment, and the books by local authors.
As you make your way back to the register you notice, for the first time, the television in the upper corners of the two front rooms, one is showing a TED Talk: Sir Ken Robinson is talking about education, you’ve seen that talk, a few times, the other television is showing a documentary: I AM written and directed by Tom Shadyac. There’s no sound but you notice that a few of the patrons have identical headphones on and are looking up at the screens. That’s cool, you think, you must be able to rent headphones to watch, and to listen!
You pay for your books, ask for a little more hot water, and head for the front door. Instead of walking back towards the street you stop, and sit on the swing, still empty, on the porch to your right. Sitting you sip, again, on your tea, and open Richard Ford’s A Piece of My Heart. You haven’t read it. It’s Ford’s first book, and is otherwise nearly impossible to find.
The red head is still sitting at a table on the patio, as you sip at your tea, you watch her a moment, and she looks up, and through someone standing at the entrance whom is creating a panoramic memory of the facade before walking towards the front door of CommuniTea Books.
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It’s not always easy to spot a first edition—or first printing, as it’s more traditional referred to—most people seem to think that if the words “First Edition” are anywhere on the title page then it must be so, but no that’s not always the case, and, unfortunately, with as many publishers as there are, and because most of them do it differently, unless you know what you’re looking for you’re probably not going to find it.
Fortunately, if the book is a stated “First Edition” it is, in every case, always a First Edition, but is it a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing, because, yes, some publishers like to throw people off by printing First Editions with a number of Printings, which, essentially, means absolutely nothing.
If you’re holding a book in your hand and somewhere on the title page it reads, First Edition, and there is no Number Line, or Letter Line, and it doesn’t specifically indicate whether it’s a later printing, than the book you’re holding is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition and includes a number or letter line then you should disregard the stating, First Edition, and focus on the number or letter line.
A Number Line or Letter Line often look like a line of scattered seemingly nonsensical numbers, however, with most books if there is a number 1 or the letter A anywhere on the line then the book IS a First Printing. If there isn’t a number 1 or the letter A then you would look for the next lowest number or letter. For example: if the book is a stated First Edition with a number line and the lowest number you can find is a 3, then you’re looking at a First Edition/Third Printing. Or if the book is a stated First Edition with the letter E, it’s a First Edition/Fifth Printing.
Here’s where it can get kind of confusing…
Not every book is a stated First Edition, however if it still has a number, or letter line and the number 1, or letter A are listed than the book is still a First Edition/First Printing, unless otherwise stated. And it might otherwise be stated by saying, it’s a reprint, or an anniversary edition, or “this book has been printed x number of times.” With the case of anniversary editions that are stated, or otherwise First Printings, those books still might have market value. I have a VIKING printed Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that has a number line, with the number 1 indicated, and so it is a First Edition/First Printing Fiftieth Anniversary Edition and the values is still right around $50—imagine what a 1939 First Edition/First Printing of The Grapes of Wrath would be worth? (It goes for as high as $17,500, but I can get it for under a $1,000 so, you know, don’t be fooled).
It can get more confusing still…
Random House, sometimes, list at First Edition/First Printing by stating First Edition and leaving the number of THAT printing OFF of the number line. So if the book is a stated First Edition and the only number that’s missing is a 1, then that book is a true First Edition, or a First Edition/First Printing. If the book is a stated First Edition, and the lowest number is a 4, then that book is a First Edition/Third Printing. But, again Random House doesn’t always do this.
There are other publishers, and books that were published before a certain year that will only include the date. The book will not necessarily have the words First Edition printed anywhere on the copyright page, there will be no number, or letter line, and your left with the words copyright 1955, only. In this case you either know what year the book was printed, or you find out what year that book was printed. More often than not if that particular book is not a true First Edition, it will have a list of copyright dates indicating later printings.
You know what another fun game is? Some authors had both the cloth and paperback copy of their books published at exactly the same time! Of course, the edition/printing will, likely, but stated on both the hardback and paperback copies, but nevertheless, for collectors, that’s an interesting things to come across. Thomas Pynchon, for example, printed Gravity’s Rainbow—“A screaming comes across the sky.”—in both formats, simultaneously.
I bet you didn’t know it could be so complicated!
Having a signed book, too, can be more complicated than you might have thought. A number of collectors prefer signed books that are, what the industry considers, Flat Signed, which means that the author, when signing, only wrote his/her signature. Most collectors prefer this to an inscription (but that, too, will depend on the book, and how difficult it is to find). Occasionally you’ll find a book signed by the author, and inscribed to someone, for example:
To: Roberto, Thanks For All the Wisdom
& Advice. You Are a great Friend.
Keep on Keeping On!
AKA. LA CHUPACABRA!
Above is the inscription in a copy of The Da Vinci Code I have, inscribed by Dan Brown. Personally I like to collect books inscribed by authors, if for no other reason that you come across something like THAT!
So, determining whether a book is a First Edition/First Printing can be exceptionally difficult, and confusing, and it takes a wealth of knowledge, and experience in order to do so, but having a general idea of what you’re looking at can be helpful, otherwise consult your local bookseller, or a collector.
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How does CommuniTea Books price our books?
The vast majority of inventory at CommuniTea Books are used and remainder books. It might help, first, to establish what used and remainder books are. Used books, well, yes, they are exactly what you might expect them to be, used books are preowned books that we have acquired either through our community as trades or direct sales, off premises at estate sales, or inventory purchased at other used bookstores. Remainder books are new books printed in excess by publishers, and are being liquidated at vastly reduced prices, and resulting we are able to offer fantastic prices for.
We price our used books, generally, at 60% the list price. We do this, in part, because we are independently owned, and are in business to support ourselves, and our employees. Also we only accept used books that are in pristine condition, in most cases it would be very difficult to recognize the difference between one of our used books, and a new paperback. We will, on occasion, accept books that are below our typical standards of quality, and we might do this if the book is rare, or collectible, or under stocked in our store, in such cases we price accordingly; if the book is not rare or collectible, and is beneath our general standards of condition/quality, the price will reflect that. It might be important to note that our pricing standards are based on the example of a high quality trade paperback book. All used mass-market books in CommuniTea Books are priced well below 60% list price. Inasmuch our rare or collectible paperback books will be priced according to the market value of that particular rare or collectible book.
Half Price Books, which is located throughout 16 of 50 of the United States, the company started in Texas, and as advertised they price their standard quality trade paperback books at half of the listed price, unless it is a rare or collectible books, then it is priced—actually, I have no idea how Half Price Books decides the prices of rare or collectible books, there doesn’t seem to be any consistency or rhyme or reason to that decision. CommuniTea Books is slightly pricier than HPB because we offer a better quality product, considerably better service, and a more comfortable environment.
Yes, remainder books are new books, they have not been previously owned; these books were printed and shipped to a bookseller or distributer, and never sold. At which point the additional copies were bought by remainder outlets and are sold to various, usually independently owned bookstores, for considerably reduced prices. CommuniTea Books prices our remainder books at UNDER 50% the list price. And remainders do make up the second largest selection of our inventory at CommuniTea Books. They include classic, commercial, and obscure titles from almost any conceivable author.
We are grateful that we can offer these new books to our customers, and to our community, for less than is available almost anywhere, especially in, and around the San Antonio area, and Texas Hill Country (Boerne, Bandera, Bulverde, Comfort, Fair Oaks Ranch, Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Leon Springs, New Braunfuls, and Spring Branch).
Rare & Collectible Books:
Rare and Collectible books are books that are, obviously, difficult to come by, or have been printed in low numbers (First or Early Editions/Printings), and/or have been signed. The market creates a demand for these books, and therefore the value is increased, and the market is willing to pay. The value of these books is decided, also, by the market. CommuniTea Books researches the value of like or similar books that are considered rare or collectible because they are hard to find, they are an early edition/printing, and/or they have been signed, and we price them as low as the market suggests. Some booksellers involved in rare and collectible bookselling will sell at average or higher than the market suggests, it is important for us to get the book in the hands of someone who will appreciate it, and therefore we want to make it as accessible as possible for our customers.
Also, being a collector, I have a personal appreciate for precious literature, and would like to see that appreciation, and love shared, and continued by our community, by people.
With that said, we have collectible books priced as little as $5-10 and upwards to over $1,000. One of the most interesting things about books is that you could hold something in your hand, and never know the value of what you have, and, at the same time, hold something in your hand and over-estimate the value of what you have. An old book, just because it is old, does not necessarily mean that it holds value, and more often than not, it doesn’t. I have seen antique stores, and bookstores, over-price antiquarian books simply because they’re old. People will stamp a price of $20 on it, when it could be worth next to nothing—$1, 2, 3, or less—in that particular instance what gave that book value was nothing more than not knowing what it was, and ‘you’re’ willingness to pay for it. And, if that book maintains a sentimental value to you, at home, on your shelf, then great I’m not going to challenge or disagree with you, but if you could have found the same book on Amazon for pennies, or if no one else on the planet gives that particular book value, and that’s what you’re interested in, you probably should have invested that money in a comparably priced book on my shelf at CommuniTea Books—because we definitely, always do our research. We know what we have, we know what you have—you know, if you share it with us—and we do it because we love it, and we love sharing.
Harry Potter: if you have a first printing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and/or Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban than you have something special, what you have is rare, and collectible and they have a monetized value. However, first editions after the first three books are, essentially, worthless. Don’t get me wrong having first printings of all 7 books is really cool, and is an awesome collection, but, again only the first three are worth anything…why? Because Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and every book following had massively large first printings, which is to say that sometimes it’s actually more difficult to find a copy that IS NOT a first printing.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico some of my friends and I had a running joke that if we found a copy of any book in the bibliography of a certain author we knew, that WAS NOT SIGNED it would be more valuable than the seemingly hundreds of copies we would persistently find that were signed. There is a well-known author there that loved to sign his books, I mean if he could get his hand on a copy, he would sign it—and no, this isn’t George R. R. Martin—it became a game for us, every time we went into a bookstore, to the point even that when I came back to Texas I would flip through his books if they were available in whichever bookstore I was in, and still, more often than not, I would find his signature on the title page of his books regardless of where I was.
It was funny, and it also illustrates the point about the value of books. You could have the most amazing, collectible book sitting on your shelf right now, and never know it, or you could have a collection of old leather back books with the newspaper inside torn slightly so that you could make it out as part of the cloth cover, sitting behind glass, and tucked away in plastic bags, and they could be worthless.
If you have questions about our pricing standards, or about rare or collectible books in general please feel free to message me, I hope this continues to offer insight into the world of books, bookstores, and CommuniTea Books!
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There are millions of books in existence, both in and out of print, books that we grew up with, books that have inspired us, books that have taught us, and books that have allowed us to escape. As I write this now I am sitting in a house surrounded by books, boxes full, shelves, they are stacked on window sills, and in corners, when people come to my home for the first time they inevitably ask if I have read all these books. No, I’ll respond, I have read a number of them, others I’m working towards, and others are collectible, they’re purpose is to sit on the shelves and fulfill me in ways that only old, or rare, or fascinating books can.
I have books that I brag about with people, when the topic comes up. I am proud to say that I have them sitting on my shelves, that I can stand there, slip the book off the shelf, and open it, and to not only be invited into a story, an idea exclusive to that particular book, but to know that someone else touched them, the signed books I have, for example; knowing that Chuck Yeager touched a copy of The Right Stuff that is resting on my shelf, that Michael Chabon asked my name as I stood above him, a first printing of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay outstretched towards him, and many more.
When opening a bookstore one of the decisions that you have to make, one of the decisions that I made—though it was easy for me—is what type of bookstore do you want to open. Specialty used bookstores, bookstores that have a general focus on genre, are what the general public is looking for today. That doesn’t mean that you cannot carry other genres, but it does mean that the limited space you undoubtedly have needs to be filled with books that your store specializes in. When owning, and operating a used bookstore you become more than just a bookseller, you become an expert, and the community develops expectations of your expertise, and your focus, your ‘specialty,’ becomes their guide.
Mystery, Sci-Fi, and Horror are some of the most popular specialty bookstores, and a lot of the time, when you focus on one of the three, you’re walking not only into a bookstore but into the mind, and the unique passion of the owner, the employees, and the patrons.
I specialize in Fiction/Literature, which sounds like a fairly broad specialty, and ultimately it is, but when I saw fiction/lit, and though I do carry Mystery, Horror, Sci-Fi, Photography, Art, Science, Cooking, Psychology, History, Religion/Spirituality, Children’s, and more I make the space for the Chabon’s, the Capote’s, the DeLillo’s, the Woodrell’s, the McCarthy’s, the Mitchell’s, the Nabokov’s, the Nichols’, the Stegner’s, the Wolfe’s, the Miller’s, the Hemingway’s, the Olmstead’s, the Percy’s, the Salter’s, and more, and more, and more, and all the Mystery’s the Art’s, the Children’s, the Psychology’s they all will have a certain literary foundation. CommuniTea Books focuses on books that are well written by authors that bleed feeling, and piercing desire onto the page.
There are authors that we refuse. Authors, too, that could be considered literary. I know this may sound high-brow, or snobbish, that the act would pigeonhole me, and CommuniTea Books with bookstores that the average person would otherwise despise. We’re not high-brow, or snobbish, and that’s again solely because I cannot stand pseudo intellectual depreciation, I believe it’s ridiculous to judge another human being by their vocabulary, their intellect, their interests, and how they express themselves. It’s utterly ridiculous. “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I believe that fiction brings people together, and the environment that inspires that meeting, that community, with literature at its foundation will open minds.
I prefer fiction/literature because of the way that it makes me feel: reading it, being surrounded by it, creating it, and there is, of course, a degree of alienation to my prerogative, but, again, it’s my prerogative, and I have an image of a bookstore that does maintain a standard, but the standard includes the inclusion of everyone, as long as they are willing, and people involved that help to make others feel welcome.
I think it is dangerous when open a used bookstores to not have a focus. If you are thinking about opening a bookstore, and are considering the attempt to not focus on a particular concept, or genre, I urge you to reconsider. I’ve had this conversation with many people. Those, like me who have been in the process of opening a used bookstore, those whom have already opened a bookstore, and those whom just have an opinion, most people understand, or come to understand if they had not before, that selecting a specialty is incredibly important; the argument that is often made, or that I often hear, at least, is one regarding Borders or Barnes&Noble or Hastings or Half Price Books, the argument is that none of these chain bookstores have a focus. And that’s not accurate, each of them has (or had) a focus. When you walk through the aisles at CommuniTea Books you’ll often, you will most definitely discover books that you would never see at Barnes&Noble, why is that – do you think? The majority of the books I have are literary, authors like Daniel Woodrell or Richard Bradford or Bob Shacochis, they’re works are incredibly brilliant and important, so why would you find them at CommuniTea Books and not Barnes&Noble? Barnes&Noble has a similar focus to CommuniTea Books, we both provide more space for Fiction than anything else, but Barnes&Noble focuses on Commercial Fiction while I focus on, CommuniTea Books focuses on Literary Fiction. Borders, Barnes&Noble, Hastings, and Half Price Books all have (or had) a focus, each of them focuses on Commercial Fiction—Half Price Books tends to be more relaxed with their used book decision making, and will often include works of Literary Fiction, but if the choice came between an author or a title that is Commercial vs. Literary they would choose Commercial 100% of the time, and that’s because that is their focus.
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Canyon Road, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is essentially a mile long strip of nothing but art galleries, with a few restaurants scattered about. From the bottom of the hill at Paseo De Peralta, on either side of the street, you are surrounded by galleries. We are talking art from every walk of life: every age, every style, every medium, anything you can imagine in the realm of art can be found on Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I worked, for just under a year, at Adobe Gallery. The fourth gallery, on the right, at the bottom of the hill, near Paseo. Adobe Gallery focuses on Native American art, and more specifically Native American historic pottery, while I was there I saw some of the most amazing pieces of historic pots that I could have imagined. And I learned a great deal about the artists and the pueblos in the area that were producing them. It’s amazing to me because until Maria Martinez in the 1920’s the pottery: the hours spent gathering clay, water, forming the pot, and painting the pot, the artistic aspect were for the sake, only, of doing it. These pots were never intended to be sold, or appreciated, only used, by the families that made them. Maria Martinez changed all that when she discovered that there was a market for the design and the art outside of the pueblos.
I was responsible for staging, photographing, writing, and marketing. I was the Marketing Manager. I was there to learn as much as I could about the marketing aspect of sales. I learned a great deal about photography for sales, writing press releases, using Photoshop, and working with advertisers and publishers, from that perspective. I love the job, actually. The only thing I didn’t like about it was Todd. The “Advertising Manager,” he called himself, I’m not going to get too involved talking about him, but he was the sole reason that I left that position when I did—even though I took it merely to learn about that side of business. And, thanks to Al, the gallery owner, I did learn a great deal.
At the top of the hill, after you pass the last gallery, tucked away on the right hand side of the road, there is a restaurant, El Farol. It was one of my favorite restaurant/bars in Santa Fe, and not because of the food, though the food was pretty fantastic. I was more partial to the building itself, the design, and the bar, and trivia night, and Flamenco night…El Farol has been in Santa Fe since 1835—that’s not a typo, I didn’t mean 1935, and with a slip of the finger, and some degree of neglect, which does occur from time-to-time, I typed an “8.” A large group of us would sit at El Farol once a week and try our hand at some prize winning trivia. Incidentally, every Wednesday night, here in Boerne, some of ‘us,’ meet at Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and play the same nationally recognized trivia game.
Directly across the street from El Farol is The Teahouse. I spent a lot of time here, at The Teahouse. And one of my best friends, Justine, and I would meet there more often than anywhere in Santa Fe. It’s at The Teahouse that I have the fondest memory of Samayya, an ex of mine, and a situation that did not produce a lot of fond memories. The Teahouse had a nice patio though it wasn’t particular comfortable—intentional, maybe, to keep people from staying too long?—and several nooks inside, though it wasn’t particularly comfortable either. The best thing, in my opinion, about The Teahouse, was that they had around 80 different types of teas!
They had various Black teas, Green teas, Flower teas, Infused teas, Matcha’s, Mate’s, Herbal, and more, and every time I went I ordered a different tea. My favorites were the Pu Erh’s, and, more specifically, the Aged Pu Erh’s!
Depending on the location, the demographics, the population, the income, etc., etc., etc., a used bookstore may or may not, support itself, as a bookstore only. As the demand for print, and books continues to rise in the United States, and as we see more and more used bookstores opening their doors all over the country, many of us might recognize, too, that with each bookstore the owner might put a little bit of her, or himself in the strategy as well. We begin to see bookstores coupled with Bike Shops, Vinyl, or even various, random nostalgia; the most common pairing is, of course, coffee. A bookstore/coffeehouse is a fairly common site when visiting new stores opening up.
CommuniTea Books, however, is, as the name might imply, an idea that came to me while sitting one afternoon at The Teahouse in Santa Fe.
Everything I that don’t like about The Teahouse, or other coffeehouses that I’ve been to in Boerne, or throughout the country has allowed me to develop something altogether unique. Why is it that the best and most unique things about coffeehouse is what singles out our favorites, while most coffeehouses still manage to maintain the same unpleasant, strange, stupid, or annoying systems as well? That has never made sense to me. Some might say that it’s those systems that allow a coffeehouse, or a business, in general, to function, but it’s not. It’s not. Those system are merely another system that business owners choose to adopt. Being creative, and even innovative when exploring, and developing an idea is what allows those business to stand out.
CommuniTea Books has more than 80 different types of teas from four different distributors around the world. There are teas that The Teahouse offers that I have intentional, and personally sought out in order to sell at CommuniTea Books, but the majority of my tea menu is different, as far as the specific teas. But, teas! Teas are as unique and individualistic, and interesting as independently owned bookstores, as the eccentricities of a person. Everybody, of course, is familiar with tea: you might enjoy a cup of English Breakfast or Earl Grey in the morning, or Chamomile at night, or Peppermint or some infusion, when you’re feeling sick, but the exclusivity of a teahouse, and one that offers so many different types of teas, is incredible exceptional.
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I love bookstores because they provide a unique, inviting, and comfortable place for a community. Communities are often built around bookstores: around the theme, the events, the engagement and interaction that cannot help but take place at a bookstore.
At CommuniTea Books in Boerne we'll provide Author Events and Lectures. During my travels in Salt Lake City, New York City, and Santa Fe, I went to events meeting, and getting to know, authors such as: Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Lee Child, Dan Brown, Junot Diaz, Michael Chabon, Sam Shepherd (He is missed), Stephanie Myers ( I know), Lydia Davis, Cormac McCarthy, David Lipsky, Robert Mayer, Armistead Maupin, Bob Shacochis, and more, and we'll struggle to bring them read, and sign books. We'll also provide a place for local authors to read, and to sign their books.
We'll host writing workshops, classes (of all sorts: cooking, yoga, writing, etc.), book clubs, writing clubs, and TED Events.
We'll host live music, and open mics (music, reading, etc.)
CommuniTea Books, as well as all bookstores, are where people go to remember what it is to be human, together. There are no places like them in the world, and each are unique, and provide something that no other bookstore, or place, can.