Thrill Of Search Keeps Store On Customers' Best-Sellers List


The new-fangled, high-tech Internet is powered by programs known as "browsers," and its No. 1 top-selling commodity is books.

Meanwhile, the old-fangled, zero-tech Jackalope Books is also powered by browsers, and its No.-1, top-selling commodity is ... aw, come on. You can figure it out.

But if that sounds like the makings of a competitive war -- with Goliath certain to beat the tar out of puny little David -- it's not.

At least not according to Jackalope Books owner Garrison Levey.

The Internet had long been demonstrating its appeal to purchasers of fine and not-so-fine literature when Levey bought the used bookstore in October 1996. At that time, the enterprise was in the space on South Beeline now occupied by the Hope Chapel. For the past two years, though, it has resided much more visibly in the Payson Village Shopping Center.

Levey understands and accepts the fact that, for some people, there is no better or easier way to find and buy books. After all, it is not only unnecessary to leave home to find a book, order it and arrange for shipping -- it's unnecessary to even stand up. Or to move any body part beyond your favorite mouse-clicking finger.

Levey's store, he says, caters to those who like to turn their browsing into a more physical and mentally interactive pastime.

"The great thing about an actual bookstore is that, if you are looking for something specific and you don't find it, you may find something else that excites you," Levey said. "That can't happen on the Internet as easily as it can happen in the aisles of a bookstore."

Unlike those who search the Internet for the titles of a specific tome, Levey said, "A lot of the people who come here don't have any particular title or author in mind. About 50-percent of the people who walk through my door just want to see what we have. And when something catches their interest, they say, 'Gee, that looks good, I'll grab that.'

An added bonus to that physical grabbing, Levey said, is that "there's also something about the tactile sense of holding a book, and turning the pages, and the smell."

Levey admits a personal addiction to those pleasures. His own home, he said, boasts seven six-foot tall book cases, and piles of paperbacks stacked three deep.

"There's always something there I want to read," he said.

There are lots of people just like Levey. And those are precisely the folks who will never exchange bookstore browsing with Internet browsing.

"Looking at books on the Internet is just so impersonal," Levey said. "You don't get to see what you're getting until it arrives a week or two later. And you don't get the opportunity to leaf through the book beforehand, to make sure it's exactly what you're looking for."

But the benefits offered by browsing second-hand bookshops like Levey's are not just visual and tactile. They are also financial.

"The price of new books is going through the roof. When the latest Stephen King or Tom Clancy (paperback) goes for $8.50, or $12 to $15 if it's a trade paperback ... well, you pay half that in a used bookstore. And you're not paying any shipping fees to get that book from point A to you. You pick it up, it's yours, you've saved a few bucks, and you can start enjoying it before you reach the sidewalk out front."

Speaking of saved bucks, even more of the cover price can be slashed when customers bring in their own used books for credit in trade.

"Whoever's a reader is likely to have books around the house they aren't going to read again, and a store like this turns that into a benefit by cutting the price of new acquisitions down even further," Levey said. "In the Payson area, there's a lot of people on fixed incomes, and anywhere they can save a buck nowadays is worthwhile."

For that reason alone, he said, the act of browsing while in a physically engaged, upright, mouseless position is not likely to lose its popularity.

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