Friday, October 1, 2010

Oct. Independant bookseller of the Month: Green Apple Books SF

Each month we hope to highlight an independant bookseller doing great work in the community.  We'd love to get your submissions in the future.   The following spotlight peice was written by our own Jesse Szymanski

 

Novelty and Change
An afternoon at Green Apple Books
By Jesse Szymanski

On one of the sunniest of Saturdays I entered Green Apple Books to find it still crawling
with bookworms. I walked in out of the heat and the general bustle on Clement Street to
be greeted by an original cover of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye mounted on the end
of a bookcase. The cover resonated with me, because it was the same first edition I read
in high school.

The store was quiet and cool. An older man was reading to his grand daughter in the
children’s section. Signs dangled and labels protruded alphabetically around the massive
volume of literature. However, there was no chaotic clutter some independent bookstores
can be known for.

Green Apple Books has been around since 1967 and was established by Richard Savoy,
who leased the building that predates 1906. For the last 10 years three former employees
who Savoy chose to pass the lease to have been running the show.

Kevin Ryan had been handpicked by Savoy, along with his partners Kevin Hunsanger
and Pete Mulvihill and has co-owned Green Apple Books since he was a grad student
studying English.

“I just genuinely like my job. I think for most people who work in a bookstore that’s why
you do it,” he said.

We maneuvered around sections of books as we walked across the creaking
floorboards and back outside to head up to the office in the adjacent building.

Carrying over 250,000 titles, Green Apple Books makes sure its selection and
service separate them from your “cookie-cutter book stores,” Ryan assured.

“I think the people who do like us, like us a lot. If you go on Yelp.com, review after
review praises Green Apple.”

The neighborhood is authentic according to Ryan, who prides himself as a bookstore
owner that operates outside of the franchised world. A man of tradition, he’s having a
hard time embracing the rise of E books. Though, he was impressed when I showed him
the Dodocase website.

“None of us [at Green Apple Books] were impressed with the Kindle, but the iPad I have
a lust for.”

It did come to light in speaking with him that authors couldn’t necessarily have an E

book, in-store signing.

“The thing you get down to is that the book itself is a physical object. It’s about the feel
of it, the look of it and the beauty of its unique design,” Ryan said.

With Amazon.com and other sites making suggestions for its customers, Ryan believes a
bookstore and furthermore a real live person will always be better.

People want to get out of the house and even on the nicest days still head into Green
Apple Books in search of something new.

“Bookstores fulfill a function besides just selling books. The selection in our store is
curated. We carry books with the most merit. Beyond that our efforts are to help people
who don’t know what they’re looking for,” he explained.

Ryan believes in good old-fashioned, 20th century customer service, rather than
automated suggestions based on data entry.

“I think the Internet isn’t very good at that yet. Maybe it will get there, but people really
need one-on-one direction and help.”

Many bookstores have been selling everything from vinyl records, to CDs and even in
some instances wine glasses, essentially slowly turning them into novelty shops.

“People have an emotional attachment to books. So, it will be a slower decline, but a
definite decline.”

With technology exponentially increasing, so does our adaptation. But what does this
mean for the local vibe on Clement Street, where Green Apple Books has been a sponsor
to the community for over 40 years?

“People just like the physical book, but maybe this type of person will age out of
existence and we won’t be here in the next 20 years.”

 

1 comment:

mp said...

Craig and Jesse, thank you for the wonderful review.

Check out our blog for updates on goings on, book reviews, and general musings (I notice that one of your blogging topics is bikes-- our most recent blog entry is particularly relevant, then!)

http://thegreenapplecore.blogspot.com

We've got an increasingly active facebook page, too:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Francisco-CA/Green-Apple-Books-and-Music/122678054419763?ref=ts

Thanks again for the kind words, and come again soon!