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Charly Haley, Published October 28 2012

It's My Job: Store owner continues to sell the written word

FARGO – Bookstore owner Brad Stephenson spends his days organizing, cleaning and helping people find what they’re looking for.

From hardcover to paperback, nonfiction to novels, B.D.S. Books at 1200 1st Ave. N. has hundreds of used books to choose from on the shelves, in boxes and in piles on the floor.

Describe a typical day here.

“We open the doors and see what happens. People come in and they’re either buying books or getting rid of books. Or both. That’s the typical day in a nutshell. Cleaning, repairing, pricing and putting away – that’s what we do all day long. … It’s books going out and books coming in, and we hope that more of them go out than come in.”

Are all of the books here from people bringing them in?

“I don’t order the books. Sometimes people ask me to order things for them, but these days it’s easier for them to do that themselves than to have me do it for them. … I almost never go out to rummage sales and garage sales because you can drive around all day at $4 a gallon of gas and not find anything worth buying. And eventually, they’ll bring it in here anyway. Sometimes I do go to estate sales if they let me know that there’s a whole lot of really good books because they don’t want to haul them all in here.”

What does repairing the books entail?

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of fixing the dust jackets or things like that. I don’t do restoration. That’s a whole different thing. I’ll maybe put a little glue in the spine to tighten it, that kind of stuff.”

Are there any funny stories from the business here?

“I can’t think of anything specific. Usually, it’s just dumb stuff, like they’re standing right in front of the books they want and they say, ‘Do you have any?’ and I’m like, ‘You’re standing right in front of them.’ ”

How do you keep track of all these books?

“People always ask that, and I say, ‘You put them where they’re supposed to be.’ Now the trick is how do you figure out where they go? Fiction’s easy. It’s by genre, alphabetized by author. But nonfiction is by topic, and sometimes that’s a little more difficult. If you get something like ‘The History of English Politics,’ where does it go? Does it go in history? Does it go in politics? Where does it best fit? Sometimes that’s a little more difficult.”

Are there any other challenges?

“Oh, god, trying to make money. Think about it. First of all, we had the Web, and everybody said that was going to kill books. But I can sell there. Also, with the Web, you can buy the same book there as here, but you’ll have to compete with price, quality and my smiling face, rather than going on the impersonal Web and buying something you couldn’t see first. So, I could still compete. But now, you want to get this digitally. I ain’t got no digitally. If you want digital books, I’ve got physical books. That’s where I can’t compete, is when people have got those digital things. … But the interesting thing is when you have stuff that you can’t get online. There’s a lot of stuff that’s not digitalized yet. People come in looking for things, and we have it here, often. I mean, look at the piles – it’s got to be in here somewhere.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701) 235-7311