Rubin: For real books, ‘The End’ is not yet near

Neal Rubin

Between Bookstock, Book Beat and Bezos, I’m getting a strong sense that people still like books. Real books, with pages and covers.

Bargain-minded book lovers peruse the merchandise at last year’s Bookstock. Michigan’s largest used book and media sale starts Sunday at Laurel Park Place.

Bookstock, Michigan’s largest used book and media sale, runs Sunday through April 29 at Laurel Park Place in Livonia. At some point late next week, the 16th annual benefit for literacy and education projects will likely hit $2 million in total sales — a particularly sizeable number when you consider the tally was a shade under $1 million five years ago, and it has mostly come $1 and $3 at a time.

Book Beat, the classic independent bookstore in Oak Park, stocked its first shelves with treasures from Bookstock’s predecessor, a long-time production of the Brandeis University women’s alumni chapter. As the store chugs through its 35th year, the American Booksellers Association reports a 40 percent increase in the number of independent shops since 2009, and a 5 percent uptick in sales last year.

As for Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and arch-enemy of places like Barnes & Noble and the vanquished and vanished Borders, he has opened 15 brick-and-mortar bookstores, with three more on the way.

Meantime, actual books make up 65 percent of the market and ebook sales fell 18.7 percent in 2016, even if that’s a somewhat misleading statistic; it doesn’t count most self-published books or products from small publishers.

Cary Loren founded Book Beat in Oak Park with his wife, Colleen Kammer, in 1982. He says the printed book is favored by enough readers that it is not an endangered species.


Bottom line, ink-and-paper is holding its own.


“People come here to browse,” says Cary Loren, who founded Book Beat with his wife, Colleen Kammer. “It’s a little messy, but they’ll stumble on something here. They do the same thing at Bookstock.”

I should mention that along with Rochelle Riley of the Free Press, I am honorary co-chair of Bookstock, which means I spend much of April reminding people how grand it is to see used books, movies, audio books, CDs and vinyl albums displayed from one end of a shopping mall to the other.

I should also mention that as an exalted honorary co-chair, I get the same salary as the other 800 people involved in the project, which is zero. Nearly every penny that comes in — $1 for most paperbacks, $3 for trade paperbacks and most hardcovers, $4 for newer hardbounds, a bit more for coffee table books or collectibles — goes right back out as donations.

And, I should concede that I don’t do a great deal of heavy lifting. That’s the province of Sheri Schiff of Birmingham, who oversees the book depot and the months of collections and drop-offs that go along with countless hours of sorting and categorizing.

“I believe we have 300,000 books this year,” Schiff says.

She also says that she was enjoying a book on a recent cruise, an outlier amid a sea of ebook readers, when an unexpectedly alarming wave dumped everyone nearby into the pool. “My book dried out,” she says, but most everybody else’s reading material — to borrow from “The Godfather,” usually findable at Bookstock for a buck — was swimming with the fishes.

“They were all running to the ship’s library or asking me if I have something to read,” she says, yet another reason that “there’s still something special about holding a book.”

Bookstock kicks off with a presale from 8:15-11 a.m. Sunday. For $20, you can beat the opening-day crowd and be among the first to pounce.

After that, the sale is free during mall hours, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. otherwise. Since there’s no earthly way to display 300,000 books at once, fresh merchandise gets placed on the overburdened tables every day.

For a full schedule of events, check Highlights include Teacher Appreciation Day on Tuesday, when teachers with a valid I.D. get 50 percent off from 3-9 p.m., and Bookbuster Days from 3-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday, when it’s buy four items and get the least expensive one free.

Spend at least $25 during Bookbuster Days and you’ll be entered in a drawing for Tigers tickets, a puck signed by Dylan Larkin of the Detroit Red Wings, or a foursome at Plum Hollow Country Club in Southfield.

Spend at least $25 any other random time — or $2.50, or $2,500 — and you’ll be helping stalwart nonprofits encourage people to read, or even teach them.

Plus, you’ll have more books. Real ones, with pages and covers, and what a fine thing that is.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn



Sunday through April 29

Laurel Park Place, Livonia