Bookstore Bucks Trend Toward E-Readers

Paper Hound | BCBusiness
The Paper Hound Bookshop on Vancouver’s West Pender Street is a don’t-get-rich scheme two veteran book lovers were happy to take on.

Two Vancouver bibliophiles are building a beautiful business out of used books

Anyone for a Rant, Libation or Cunning Crime?

When such quirky titles divide the shelves, it’s easy to see that Vancouver’s newly opened The Paper Hound Bookshop is no run-of-the-mill bookstore.

As the book industry struggles in the digital age, owners Kim Koch and Rod Clarke are taking an innovative approach to second-hand books in their boutique business on West Pender Street in Vancouver. Take the old medicine cabinet that’s repurposed to hold banned tomes, for example, or racks packed with ephemera such as bookmarks or postcards left between the pages or books displayed on reconfigured wire hangers.

“The general response to opening a bookstore in this day and age is that it’s a crazy venture,” says Koch, who, with Clarke, used to work at the long-established MacLeod’s bookstore nearby. “If you’re looking to get rich, it obviously is crazy. Our low revenue expectations were built into the business plan, so maybe that’s our secret.”

She explains that they felt they needed to have around 12,000 books in circulation with the aim of selling approximately a thousand each month (costing from $1 to $500, this of course, depends on which books sell) to meet their monthly expenses for the store situated in the newly renovated 19th-century Victoria Block. They’ve achieved close to that inventory with “economical, but attractive” floor-to-ceiling shelves (created by Vancouver furniture makers Nagy-Ne) inventively filling the boutique 700-square-foot space.

Koch adds that the aim was to create a place where “browsing is a pleasure” among the physical collection. “We try to limit our inventory to books with some intrinsic shelf allure for browsers—they have to be attractive, or unusual, or classic, or just charmingly appealing for some unclassifiable reason,” she says. “At its most subtle, used bookselling is often about perceiving a value in a book that may have otherwise been overlooked, and then presenting that book in a context that highlights its attributes.”

She also believes the rise of the e-reader is not so relevant in their line of business. For bookstores selling new books, there are demands such as fixed discounts that do not affect the Paper Hound: “New booksellers have a much more difficult structure to work within,” she concludes, “while used bookselling is a more varied market.”