NewsInBerkeley Notes on living in Berkeley, CA September 14th, 2009, posted by Lance Knobel www.inberkeley.com/2009/09/14
Stubborn bookstore hangs on
“We keep doing it because we’re stubborn.”
Christina Creveling, co-manager and a partner in University Press Books on Bancroft just below Telegraph, is frank about the difficulties her jewel of a bookstore faces. An idle observer would think that Berkeley — with 35,000 students and a population filled with academics and literary types — should be a haven for bookstores. Indeed there was a time when that was the case. But in recent years book lovers in Berkeley have seen the peregrinations and eventual closure of Cody’s, the closure of Black Oak Books and even the closure of Barnes & Noble on Shattuck. Are we cursed?
I hope not. University Press Books is celebrating its 35th year and, for all the struggles, is a fantastic bookstore. It stocks 16,000 titles, about 70 per cent of which are the academic works that give the store its name. The other 30 per cent are so-called trade books, such as you’d find in any ordinary bookstore. The stock is a superb mix of books you might read about in The New York Times Book Review and more arcane volumes (very much to my taste) you could uncover through TLS or review pages in academic journals.
According to Creveling, University Press Books has been hit by a number of factors. The rise of Amazon.com and other web-based booksellers has hurt bookstores everywhere. In academic books, there are additional problems. Most books are sold to bookstores at a discount of around 40 per cent. That’s the bookstore’s potential for profit. In academic books, however, more and more books are now sold on “short discount”, only 20 per cent off. Sales are made directly to libraries and university courses. There’s insufficient profit at that discount for stores like University Press Books. Creveling also recognizes that the store faces particular difficulties with its location. Many potential customers no longer come to the Telegraph Avenue area to shop, even though stores like University Press Books provide parking validation.
So what can the store do? Creveling and her colleagues have been innovative. The store has launched a Friends of UPB program. An annual donation of $35 gives members 10 per cent off on one day’s purchases as well as an invitation to a members-only party. Lifetime memberships are $350 — ten people have signed up for lifetime memberships so far. Additionally the store has a program for local authors: donate two copies of your book and University Press Books will display one copy for at least a month and commit to always reordering copies of the book should it sell, so that one copy will remain in stock.
University Press Books is precisely the kind of store that Berkeley needs to support and retain if we want to keep some of the best aspects of the city’s character. I hope it’s here to celebrate its 70th anniversary.
East Bay Express, June 2009
BEST BOOKSTORE FOR REALLY SMART PEOPLE
University Press Books
Even after the tragic loss of Telegraph institution Cody’s, Berkeley is still home to a handful of amazing indie bookstores, among them University Press Books. Despite hard economic times and fierce competition from Internet sites, University Press Books continues to thrive under its original owners, husband-wife team Bill and Karen McClung, who founded the bookstore in 1974. With the slogan “Ten Thousand Minds on Fire” stretching across the top of the front door, the shop primarily attracts a crowd of professors, grad students, and otherwise nerdy folk, and carries titles from 140 scholarly and academic presses. The store also organizes occasional author events, such as book signings. The staff, an eccentric group of bibliophiles with an encyclopedic knowledge of esoteric publishers, is especially friendly and helpful, and truly loves what they do.