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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A new chapter for not-quite-new books

Bookstore owner Peter Linz knows that just about anyone can sell an old paperback for a buck on the Internet these days. In fact, he did it himself for over ten years – raising more than $45,000 for charity. 

But that’s not stopping him from going the brick-and-mortar route.

In February, Linz and his wife, Susan, opened Logos Books, a used and out-of-print bookstore at 513 Second St. in Downtown Davis.

Logos offers books in virtually every genre. Some are well-known; others are remarkably obscure. A typical paperback sells for between $2 and $5. All are in good condition.

One of the Linzes’ biggest challenges will be staying afloat. It’s the worst economy since Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was published in the 1930s, and with corporate bookstore chain Borders just a couple blocks away, mom-and-pop bookstores have struggled to survive in Davis.

It was only about two years ago that Bogey’s Books, a beloved local bookshop, closed its doors just a couple blocks from the Linzes’ space. Another shop, The Next Chapter, moved to Woodland a few years back in the hope that cheaper rent would keep the business afloat. (It didn’t.) The Open Bible, a Christian bookstore on G Street, went out of business a few months ago. It’s a time when most small businesses – not just bookstores – are struggling to keep their doors open. One local columnist called it a “mass exodus.”

Nonetheless, Susan Linz hopes the atmosphere of Logos Books will draw the community in. One of her hopes for the bookstore is that it will become a sort of social hub – not where people plug in their laptops for free wifi, but where people can gather to practice speaking a foreign language at a table française, hear poetry or browse local artists’ works on the walls.

“It’s important to get people in,” she said. “I think it’s a really great way to socialize.”

Susan’s vision is of friends walking around town, coffee or milkshake in hand, dropping into the bookstore for fun.

“I want it to be a place where people can come in, look around and find something that they hadn’t thought of reading,” she said. “Every time you go into a used bookstore, it’s a different experience.”

The store’s philanthropy is another appeal. After covering the rent and other operating costs, the Linzes will donate all of their revenues to Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children.

The Linzes want to have something for everyone: They’re stocking popular fiction (Sue Grafton’s U is for Undertow), cookbooks (Gooey Desserts: The Joy of Decadence), foreign language children’s books (Alexander y el día terrible horrible espantoso horroroso), European history (Jewish Life in the Middle Ages), linguistics, health and medicine, poetry (Sweet and Bitter Bark: Selected Poems by Robert Frost), ecology and environment and more.

But what makes Logos Books truly unique is its collection of more scholarly and academic tomes. Peter is a retired UC Davis computer science professor, so mathematics, computer science and physics books are his specialty. On the shelves sit titles like Metallization Associated with Acid Magmatism and Physical Statistics. Some titles are even in other languages: Nichtlineare Programmierung is one example.

Peter’s retirement is part of the reason he’s opening the store now.

“It’s a new adventure for me,” he said.

The thing about used bookstores is there’s no central source of inventory. It’s up to the owners to go out and hunt down what they want, or hope someone comes in and wants to sell it at a good price (or better yet, donate it).

Peter and Susan go out to small book sales around Northern California a few times a month looking for new material.

“It’s like fishing; you never know what you’re going to find,” Peter said.

Logos Books will host an Art About reception and demonstration by local artist and UC Davis entomology professor emeritus Jeff Granett[cq] April 9 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Store hours are generally Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check logosbooks.wordpress.com for up-to-date business hours information.

JEREMY OGUL can be reached at newmedia@theaggie.org.


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