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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Two Davis bookstores clear their shelves

The days of paperback writers may soon give way to e-book writers. Culpepper Books and the Davis branch of Borders Books, Music and Cafe closed up shop this summer. Local bookstore owners said the closures seem to be on par with the trend away from reading paper versions of books to online or computer based reading.

Culpepper, which inhabited the University Mall (UMall) for five years, closed on June 30. It’s location is currently empty and up for lease.

Similarly, Borders, which originally opened in Davis in 1997 and was situated next to Jamba Juice at the University Commons, announced it would be liquidating and closing all of its stores in mid-July. There is no official word on what will become of the space.

Shawn Sherali, owner of Davis Textbooks on A Street, said business has been slow in general because of an increase in textbook rentals and digital books. He said that currently his business is at 20 percent of what it was when it peaked in 2008 and that business has been declining since 2004.

“It’s been negative for all mama and papa stores,” Sherali said. “We started rentals to boost business. Any off-campus bookstore can’t rent books out at higher rates than on-campus stores. Off-campus bookstores are struggling in general. We’re all worried because it’s highly expensive to rent next to colleges and there’s a limited cushion.”

Sherali said he advises students to check the price before they rent and look into buying and buying back to save money.

“Students are ripped off by rentals from the campus bookstore. We can’t compete with them though; they get all the business,” Sherali said. “Also, they should consider that there’s a 10 percent reshelving fee at the UC Davis Bookstore for returns, whereas we don’t have that charge.”

The UCD Bookstore began textbook rentals in the Fall 2010.

Alzada Knickerbocker, who has owned Avid Reader on Second Street for the past 25 years, said when Borders first opened she lost half of her business. She said she’s seen a 15 to 20 percent increase in business since Borders began liquidating.

“People have been discovering we have a good selection of books,” Knickerbocker said. “It’s been encouraging and we’d like to go back to pre-Borders sales. We anticipate losing some business because of the shift to online readership, but we do believe we’ll stay competitive.”

Knickerbocker said to “cover the waterfront” of the reading industry, the store now also sells e-books through their website, which are identically priced to their physical books. She said she also has the ability to order books quickly if her store doesn’t carry them and that she does out-of-print book searches for customers as well.

Alex Lisowy, a junior international relations major, said while he found the store closures disappointing, he anticipated them.

“Online readership seems to be blowing up,” Lisowy said. “It seems to be a form of dealing with text-based knowledge. I’ve also found that renting books is more convenient and cheaper.”

The UCD Bookstore Director Charles Kratochvil said sales for the on-campus bookstore have only gone up marginally since Culpepper and Borders’ closures.

“There was not much of any impact,” Kratochvil said. “The trade industry is pretty depressed right now for books. Our sales are more focused toward UCD students though, so the city of Davis would be impacted more by these bookstores closing than us. We are keeping books alive.”

Sherali said he believes his store survived over Culpepper because Off-Campus Books is less dependent on buybacks and is open for more hours.

Kratochvil agreed with Sherali that Culpepper probably closed because of their reliance on book buybacks.

“Culpepper didn’t have much of the book business,” Sherali said. “They were often times selling to us and they had low book sales.”

The Aggie Express in UMall, located next to the space Culpepper formally housed, began doing textbook buybacks – through a separate company – at the beginning of August. The store is also taking readers and other books that aren’t accepted in their catalogue as donations.

Brett Anderson, a two-year employee of Aggie Express, said the store’s new venture has been going well.

“We’re new to the buyback business, so we’re getting to learn the ways of the market,” Anderson said. “It’s a challenge because a lot of books are very specific to UCD.”

Among other Davis bookstores still in business are Logos (a used and out-of-print bookstore on Second Street), Sweet Briar Books (an independent new and used bookstore on G Street), and the Davis Christian Bookroom on Lake Boulevard.

ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached at city@theaggie.org.

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