"No one really knows about it yet," Michael Wells, owner of Bailey/Coy Books, says. We are walking to his bookstore so he can see the new section that went up this past weekend.
The 22-year-old bookstore has always been smart about keeping up with the competition. (In addition to the competition every independent bookstore faces from chain and internet retailers, Bailey/Coy is on Capitol Hill, a neighborhood "blessed with a lot of good bookstores," Wells says, and it happens to be across the street from a mammoth grocery store that sold the new Harry Potter at 40 percent off—in other words, according to Wells, at cost.) In recent years, Bailey/Coy has added a table of remaindered books (newish hardbacks, steeply discounted), and in recent months an expanded card section. And now, Bailey/Coy is selling used books.
"All independent bookstores will do it," Wells says. "The Powell's model, mixing used and new, will be what the independent bookstore of the future is. I'm sure of that." Powell's Books in Portland mixes its used and new stock on the same shelves, which Bailey/Coy may do at some point down the line. Larger bookstores like Elliott Bay Book Company, University Book Store, and Third Place Books have been selling used books, in addition to new books, for years.
Red Reddick has been hired as a part-time consultant to advise Wells and build the used section. Reddick was a buyer for Twice Sold Tales for eight and a half years and Red & Black Books for 16 years before that. She is, Wells says, "the most educated, well-rounded bookseller in the Northwest."
Reddick's plan is to "mimic and extend the inventory that's already here," she told me. Which means, lots of classic and contemporary fiction, history, biography, and gay and lesbian titles. A system for buying books from customers will begin in September.
Wells doesn't want the store to feel "musty and junk-shoppy and antique" and says that Bailey/Coy "will always be a new bookstore." They will simply offer a whole bunch of other books too.
Wells and I arrive at the store. The used books are toward the center of the room. The fiction selection is impressive. A woman who's browsing hears Wells and me talking and looks up and asks, "Is this section new?"
"Yeah, we're starting to sell used books," Wells says.
The woman smiles and says, "Awesome."
* * *
And now for some shameless self-promotion: This Tuesday, August 23, I'm curating a reading called, for lack of a better title, "The Selected Works of Charles Mudede," at a bar called the Bus Stop (508 E Pine St, 322-9123) at 8:00 p.m. Several local luminaries will inhale helium and then read aloud from some of the wildest, funniest, most gruesome things the Stranger columnist and noted screenwriter has ever published. It will be fun. And it's free.