Quaint-yet-hip, Page 42 Bookstore can be found (much to the owner’s delight) next door to Donut Parade on Hamilton. Despite its size, Page 42 has made a massive impact on the book industry in Spokane due to its modern pricing philosophy and commitment to keeping literature accessible. Owners Emily Peterson and Alicia McCann sat down with Huckleberry Press to discuss their impact on the Spokane community, their love for donuts, and the ever-changing landscape of book sales.
Taylor: To start, could you tell our readers about your relationship to Spokane and why you chose to open up shop in Spokane? What sets Page 42 apart from the other wonderful bookstores in Spokane?
Alicia: I’ve been here my whole life. It’s a great city and I love it.
Emily: I moved to Spokane from Missouri and I’m in love with Washington State. We’re the prettiest state. We have the nicest people. We have the best industries. There was no other place where Page 42 would work as well as it did here — but it’s also important to note that we purchased Page 42. We didn’t choose Spokane, but we would have!
But, we’re doing things a little different with Page 42. We don’t sell new books. We’re 100% used and we’re the low price leader of books in Spokane. Most of our books are $3 or less — almost all of them are $5 or less. We compete with Amazon on pricing, which is not something many people can say.
Alicia: Another unique thing about us is the amount of books that we put through the store. We have a constantly changing inventory — in with the new, out with the old as quick as possible. If a book is sitting on the shelf for more than six months, we’re going to donate it back into the community.
Taylor: I saw that you just put together a book drive for an elementary school and you have a huge, free book event coming up this Thursday? Is that part of your business model?
Emily: Our mission statement is “Community impact, one book at a time.” We do that by offering the lowest price on literature. During the summer — every four to six weeks — we have our .25 cent book sales. We have 5 to 7,000 books outside and they’re .25 cents each. And they’re good quality books. The free book fair is based on the quantity of books that we’re processing during winter. We can’t have a .25 cent sale due to the weather, so we just give ’em all away.
Taylor: How do you think that accessible literature affects the community?
Emily: Being able to read. Being allowed to read. The privilege of reading that we’re only really experiencing in the last 120, 150 years — we’re ready to spread it around. We have been accused of crashing the book market and making it impossible for anyone to make money, but I really don’t think that’s the case.
If I sell one Harry Potter book that has a bent corner for .25 cents, I’m not making it impossible for anyone else to sell a Harry Potter book; I’m giving that one person an awesome opportunity to read a great book for .25 cents.
Taylor: In recent years, there’s been this idea that print media is going away. Do you think there will always be a space for print media?
Both: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Alicia: Because it’s about holding this physical piece in your hand. Especially with antique books. I see this a lot. My favorite one to reference is this —do you remember that Equestrian book that came in?
Emily: It was an equestrian veterinary care anthology.
Alicia: Mm-hmm. . . It’s like the twenties or something like that. It’s like four inches thick and it smells like horses and cigars — the whole book. You just pick it up and you’re like, “I’m in a horse barn right now.” You can imagine this book — a treasure, a piece of history — on your desk, and you’re back there. Books have a story much greater than whatever’s printed on the page.
Emily: Yeah — E-books — people really thought that they were gonna put print media out of business. We’re seeing that that’s not the case, because for one thing, there’s the basic aesthetic appeal of a shelf full of hardbacks. That’s more gorgeous than any Kindle or tablet you could buy. The world hasn’t moved past the aesthetic of books.
And we’re seeing the book market shift as it turns to appeal more to the younger generation. Gen Z is growing up and has disposable income. We’re seeing book covers get more vibrant. We’re seeing better summaries and descriptions. We’re seeing a two year waiting list to get onto Fairy Loot because it’s an exclusive book experience.
Alicia: We just launched a program called All Booked Up last month where we curate a monthly selection of used books for our customers. You sign up, you tell us your preferences, what you read, what you hate, what you’ve loved, and what you might be willing to explore. We shop for you and we send it to you with some freebies and it ships to your door every month.
Taylor: I’m assuming you both have a long history of loving books? Where did your love for books and your desire to open a bookstore come from?
Emily: My grandma read to me when I was really small and she had an extensive library. And then as I grew into my teen and tween years my sister was a heavy reader. I could go to her room and she would help me find exactly what I wanted to read. I never had a moment where I didn’t have a stack of books waiting.
Alicia and became best friends when we met in seventh grade. We always wanted to open a bookstore together. But we did a lot earlier than we had anticipated. We thought it would be a retirement project.
Taylor: So what was that first bookstore you guys imagined like? Is Page 42 pretty close?
Alicia: Well, for me, there was supposed to be a bakery where I’d have delicious pastries and coffee.
Taylor: And you’re pretty close to a donut shop.
Alicia: I mean — I do love donuts and I don’t have to operate it.
Taylor: Sounds like a win-win. To wrap up, do you have any final thoughts for our readers or anything you’d like to plug?
Emily: Visit page42bookstore.com and subscribe to All Booked Up. We’re open seven days a week, 10 – 7, Monday through Saturday, and 11 – 4 on Sunday. Follow us on social media to see deals and events as we come out with them!