Featured Indie Bookstore: Bart’s Books | Ojai, California

Bart’s Books is the world’s largest outdoor bookstore, serving the Ojai community since 1964. We believe that there is a book for everyone, and that reading is the catalyst for a connection amongst passionate people. Bart’s hosts a collection of over 130,000 used and new books, ranging from rare out-of-print gems to well loved paperbacks.

 The staff – composed entirely of dedicated book-lovers – can not only help you find a book but can also offer a recommendation for a new favorite. Over 50 years after its conception, Bart’s lives on as a haven for passionate readers, intrigued travelers, wandering artists, and those just looking for a good “beach read.” 

What is the background about yourself and this bookstore?

BB: I’ve been a used bookstore frequenter since the age of 10, including a patron of Bart’s. Bart’s has been here since 1964 , founded by Richard Bartnsdale after he was inspired by the book carts along the Seine in Paris.

The majority of Bart’s Books inventory (about 130,000 books) is made up of second hand books of various subjects. Most of the used books in the store come from book trades, donations, or entire acquired estates.

And of course, we have our instagram famous cats! 

What kind of reading trends do you see with your customers?

BB: It’s difficult to see trends in the used books outside of the evry most popular titles as we don’t catalog our used inventory.  Given that our customer base extends to the greater los angeles and southern california area  popular titles skew towards california authors like steinbeck, eve babitz, bukowski and didion.  We have over 100,00 titles spanning all subjects and sell something from every section each day.

What other services and products do you provide for your customers?

BB: We sell merchandise related to the store including mugs made by a local ceramicist, who we also sell other pottery works by. We also stock seeds from a local heirloom seed company.  We occasionally rent the space out for private after hours events, as well as host events that are open to the public. 

A few years ago, a blog post wrote about us as a “bookstore coffee shop” despite the fact that we have never served coffee. We’re not really sure why this article credited us as a coffee shop, but we want to clear up the confusion: we do not serve coffee. 

What do you like most about working in an Indie bookstore? 

BB: It’s an opportunity to provide a service that has the potential to edify its customer and keep alive the best efforts of human knowledge.

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Article originally Published in the September / October / November 2023 Issue: Global Reads

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