EUREKA BOOKS (est. 1987)

426 2nd St. Eureka, CA 95501. Map It
(707) 444-9593
      

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Peter B. Howard on Bookselling

October 22nd, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookselling, Serendipity

Peter Howard was one of the top antiquarian booksellers in the United States, with a heyday in the 1990s, when his firm, Serendipity Books in Berkeley, frequently grossed more than $2 million per year with just four or five employees. As we have been packing up the store, we have come across some of Peter’s observations on bookselling:

“There is no possible, rational prediction that a given used or antiquarian book will sell for a given or specific price in a specific period of time.”

“A large collection of used books is difficult and often impossible to sell at a predictable or desired price.”

“Booksellers are entrepreneurs. The success of their business depends primarily (or entirely?) upon acumen honed over time; their special knowledge (absorbed over years), and their force of will. None of these elements is transferable; none can be bought and sold; occasionally they can be hired. Such entrepreneurs are vulnerable to illness, uncontrollable social or personal vicissitudes, changes in economies of scale, and bad judgment.”

“In a downward, declining or changing market, ownership of one’s building is an absolute guarantee of survival… The book market place is changing utterly, more so than in any time in history, this hour, this day, this month, this year.”


Never Be a Bookseller

October 17th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookselling, Serendipity

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Perhaps my favorite book so far, found on the Serendipity shelves. Alfred Knopf published it in an edition of 2000 copies (none for sale) in 1929. This charming pamphlet begins: “Never try to write, but above all never have anything to do with publishing or the book trade”; this is the only parental advice I can remember.

Garnett, remembered perhaps most today for his novel Lady Into Fox, republished by McSweeney’s, also owned a second-hand and antiquarian book shop and was a partner in the Nonesuch Press.

Garnett concludes with advice for his sons, ” ‘Above all, never be a bookseller. That is the worst of all: the hardest work and the worst paid. ‘ Yet sometimes I wish I were back in the shop….”

For the complete Serendipity Chronicles, visit http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/


Every mountain top is within reach

October 17th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

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“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”

― Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

We try to keep this in mind as we pull books from the tops of the 18-foot-tall shelves that line Serendipity Books. There are so many books that when we move the books down and empty all the boxes and bags, all the normal-height shelves are filled again.

For more about Serendipity: http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/

 

 


Fool’s Gold

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

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My wife calls what’s the process of sifting through the thousands of books at Serendipity mining for gold.

This was the first shiny object we found: an old painting with the hint of a signature in the lower left corner. We took the picture out of its frame and the name was Howard Pyle, one of the great illustrators of the 19th and early 20th century. If real, it would be a five-figure painting.

Hopes rose.

The problem, however, is that it didn’t look like a Howard Pyle. The second factor working against it was that Peter Howard would not have left a Howard Pyle lying around.

Then we cleaned the dust off the painting and discovered that the signature read “from Howard Pyle” and that the artist had signed illegibly on the the right side.

As any gold miner knows, you have move a lot of rock to find a few nuggets. So it’s back to the mines.

See all posts here.


Holy Sh*!#$t

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

Serendipity Books' Mystery Section

Jack Irvine, Eureka Books’ co-owner, was the first in the building. He picked up the keys one Saturday with his wife. Confronted by scenes like this, she reportedly wandered around Serendipity Books muttering “Holy shit!” over and over.


It Seems the Family Has Gone For Your Bid

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Serendipity

The day after my 47th birthday, I received the following email from Bonhams, the auction house hired to disperse the inventory of Serendipity Books, Inc.:

It seems that the family has gone for your bid. I think I can work out all the details next week and give you the ability to start as soon as possible.

Thirty-two words sealed what is by-far the biggest deal in the quarter-century of Eureka Books. The contract requires us to remove all the inventory and includes all the fixtures we want.

Next week in the email turned into next month while the lawyers worked on the contract. We got the keys on September 21, in the midst of a month of vacations at the store, which kept us in Eureka. Since then, we have only spent a few days at Serendipity. On October 7, we start work in earnest.

For all the posts about Serendipity, visit http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/


Serendipity Books

October 5th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Blogs, Bookselling, Feature, Serendipity

serendipity-iron

SALE IS OVER. ALL MERCHANDISE IS SOLD

It’s official now, we are the final custodians of Serendipity Books, in Berkeley, one of the great bookstores on the West Coast. After a series of auctions, shelf sales, and wholesale sell-offs, we recently negotiated the purchase of the remaining contents (probably more books than can be currently found inside the four walls of Eureka Books).

NOVEMBER 15 UPDATE: SALE IS OVER. ALL MERCHANDISE IS SOLD

Follow the sale on Facebook for the latest information

For all the posts about Serendipity, visit http://eurekabooksellers.com/serendipity/

Serendipity’s iconoclastic owner, Peter B. Howard, predicted this end to the store more than a decade ago.

Talking to Nicholas Basbanes, who was working on the book Patience and Fortitude, Peter said that “ultimately he would like to see the business pass on to a trusted colleague, but if that possibility does not develop, then he is confident that ‘the books will be liquidated in ways customary to the book business…’ Bookstores, he said, ‘are extremely fragile things, and are almost always one-generational, at least in the United States. They reflect the personality of the founder. I have made my business so big and so complex that no one in their right mind but me would ever want to take the responsibility for it.'”

In the end, no one bookseller did take over the business, but many of Peter’s close colleagues in the rare book trade took on pieces of his legacy, and we’re glad we were able to be part of that.


We Have a Winner in the Paint Our Building Voting

September 8th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookstore, Feature 3

 

carson park-web

After receiving 961 public votes and accounting for the opinions of the staff and owners of Eureka Books, this paint design created by Carson Park Design is the overall winner in our Paint Our Building poll. Let’s hope the weather holds so we can get the place painted this year!

Thanks to all our customers who voted and offered advice and to the design professionals who helped us (designers Sara Traphagen and Kelly Livingston and the artists Joan Gold and Linda Mitchell). We also extend our appreciation to the Glidden Professional Paint Center at 6th and J Street for letting us take home literally hundreds of paint chip samples. We returned almost all of them, we promise.

For those of you who want full disclosure on the voting, here’s how it worked. The five owners and employees of Eureka Books were given votes. The public was granted an equal say. Each of the six voters could elect a first, second and third choice, and those choices earned 3, 2, or 1 points, respectively. The design with the most points won.

all six square

The public voting was as follows:

Design J: 255 votes and 3 points
Design H: 215 votes and 2 points
Design D: 138 votes and 1 point


Help Paint Eureka Books

August 28th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookstore

old-and-new

It’s been about 20 years since Eureka Books was last painted and we’ve decided it’s time for a new look, and we’d like your help. We’ve narrowed it down to nine different designs. Tell us which one you like best. Or stop by the store – we have them all on the wall.


Now Hiring: Assistant Manager, Used Books

August 13th, 2013  |  by  |  published in Bookselling, Feature

help-wanted-sign

Open Position: Assistant Manager, Used Books

The primary responsibility of this position will be supervising the used book division of the store, including buying used books, cataloging, Internet sales, packing and shipping. This is in addition to the sorts of work we all do: customer service, cashier duties, and general bookstore maintenance, such as shelving and organizing.

Applicants should have bookstore or closely related experience. We are especially hoping to find someone familiar with the buying and selling of used books, but people with experience regularly selling anything on eBay, Etsy, the flea market, or similar venues are encouraged to apply.

To apply (and this is the first test for the position), drop off or mail in a resume and cover letter. The cover letter should provide a summary of your experience and qualifications for the job. We’re in the book business and that means paper. Electronically submitted resumes will get about as much attention as e-books, which is to say the delete key is just one index finger away.

Please don’t spend much time telling us how much you love books or how you’ve always longed to work in a bookstore. We’ll assume that’s the case, otherwise you’d be applying to work at BevMo. If you are also applying to work at BevMo, good luck. Let us know if they carry Cocchi Americano because we can’t get it in Humboldt County. But we’re not looking for someone who is simply looking for yet another retail job.

This is not a cush job, but it is an interesting one (we think). We work hard, all day. You will not have any time to read on the job (a common misconception about bookstores), though we expect you to be the sort of person who reads a lot in your off hours. You will also not have time to be bored. You will be challenged constantly and faced with surprisingly complex problems that need to be solved on the fly. On the same day, you may interact with a homeless person, an avid reader looking for advice choosing a title for a book club, a teenager trying to decide what to read after The Hunger Games, the curator of a prestigious library, and the odd billionaire (and aren’t they all odd?).

As the person overseeing used books, you will negotiate the purchase of used books, which often means house calls. A valid CA driver’s license and insurance are required. You will also need the ability to select the books the store needs and calculate a fair price for them without access to any tool other than your brain (training will be provided). You should feel comfortable negotiating deals and working by yourself, at someone else’s house. (We never carry cash and take prudent precautions, but that kind of work is not for everyone.)

You will be expected to work at least one weekend day as well as some evenings during tourist season and between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The position starts at $12 per hour, full time plus bronze-level health benefits beginning in January 2014. (This benefit package is part of ObamaCare. If you oppose that, please understand that if you are hired, you may find yourself compromising your principles). Like most bookstores, we trend liberal but we are a store and by definition, capitalist, so we actually make some effort to cater to Republicans and Libertarians. We are also more likely to talk about the Giants than the Democrats.

The application period starts now and ends when we hire someone. Procrastination is not a qualification for this job.