Jon Gibbs (jongibbs) wrote,
Jon Gibbs

A Quiet Word with Shari Sanford, owner of A Paperback Exchange

Shari Sanford, owner of A Paperback Exchange, in Belmar, NJ, kindly agreed to answer some questions about herself and her bookstore.

Shari - In PBX Store (2)

Tell us a little about yourself, including when/how did you come to own A Paperback Exchange?
Back when I was in High School I discovered this little used bookstore in Belmar and used to go hang out there and buy the ‘back room books’ for a quarter (broke teenager) and chat with the owner. She was very kind to a kid who never really spent more than $2.00 at a time!
Later, after moving, college, getting married and having kids I was driving through Belmar one day and wondered if it was still there. It was, and I re-connected with Isabelle Carlo who established the store back in 1977. She had been ill and was looking for a buyer for the store. I considered it, but at first, couldn’t do it. Several years later it was still for sale! She sorta talked me into it…so three days before her major surgery I took over. It was a major step for me—as well as a major gift.

Does A Paperback Exchange focus on a particular genre?
No, we are interested in everything…mostly. Not magazines, CD’s or LP’s, nor outdated textbooks or travel books. If it’s in good shape and we can find a place for it, bring it!

Do you put on special book-related events?
The store itself is quite small so until this summer I hadn’t found a way to make space for events. This summer, however, we put on author signing events every Sunday in July and August. The boro of Belmar gave permission to use the large square outside the store—Pyanoe Plaza—so we had four authors outside for eight weeks. It was wonderful to meet so many NJ authors and do my little bit to promote them!

Where can folks find info about A Paperback Exchange online?
Our website is and we can be found on Facebook as The Paperback Exchange, Belmar.
Follow us on Twitter: @PBXBelmar.

PBX outside view (2)

What’s the best thing about owning a bookstore?
My customers! They are the absolute best.

What do you know now, that you wish you’d known when you bought the store?
I still don’t know much, but knowing a little bit about the bookselling business would have come in very handy. When I started I knew literally NOTHING!

What’s the best book-related experience you’ve had at your store?
Thus far, I’d have to say the author signings we did this summer (2013) is the very best experience so far. So many great people with great ideas!

What’s the worst?
The worst experience is when a new customer comes in the store and thinks all the books are overpriced or brings books that are in terrible shape and wonders why I don’t want them. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence. I do so hate to disappoint my customers!

The publishing industry has changed so much in the last decade, what changes do you envisage coming in the next ten years?
Having been ‘in the business’ for a bit more than four years I will have to wait and see…but I don’t think the printed word will be going away any time soon.
It’s hard for me to imagine “collectible” ebooks.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
I read everything. Lately I’ve been reading all the books our NJ authors have brought to our signing events and skimming the books that intrigue me as they come in the store. Customers bring their books to trade and I’ve seen some of the most interesting things. Our store is a little microcosm of the tastes and interests of our clientele.

Do you write?
Yes, I write. But not novels. My one claim to fame is a collaboration done with a group of fellow aquarists I met online— Loaches: Natural History and Aquarium Care.
Mark Macdonald was the managing editor of the group and I did the copyediting and wrote the diseases and treatment section. It was a labor of love (read that—I made no money on it), and took four years to get finished. Published by TFH, which is headquartered in my hometown, you can purchase it at my store. Rush right out and get yours!! Lol!

Is there anything I haven’t asked you, which you’d like to talk about?
Not at the moment, but I’m sure I’ll think of something later ;)
Tags: bookstore, indy bookstores

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