Featured Indie Bookstore: The Alabama Booksmith | Homewood, AL

Tell us a little about bout yourself and The Alabama Booksmith.

JR: We spent the first half of our professional life working in the family custom-tailoring operation. During those years we were active with many civic organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Kiwanis, The American Cancer Society, The National Football Foundation, and others. These days our time is spent at the store seven days a week. 

Why did you decide to open a bookstore? 

JR: The genesis originally was sparked by a visit to San Francisco where my son ran a used bookstore. He bought books for pennies and sold them for dollars. It seemed like an easy and quick way to make a fortune. Obviously, it didn’t work out as I thought,  and through several iterations over thirty-four years, we now have the only shop on the planet that sells exclusively new signed books. (P.S. His name is Frank Reiss and he owns A Cappella Books in Atlanta and opened a year before we did. He sells new and used books)

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

JR: Since we only sell signed copies (every book in the store is signed and sells for regular publisher’s price – except for a handful in our Collector’s Corner) most of our customers collect for their libraries and reading trends or best sellers have little effect.

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

JR: For twenty years we have offered the opportunity to join our Signed First Editions Club where we select an important title every month, reserve first printings, have the author sign and ship to our customers’ doorsteps. It’s like Christmas twelve times a year. There is no charge for the service, the only cost is the publisher’s price of the book and media mail.  We have no other sidelines.

How do you see The Alabama Booksmith progressing and expanding in the next few years? 

JR: Ninety percent of our customers live in the other forty-nine states and in over a hundred foreign countries. Our building is huge and we own it. Our mailroom has more than forty sizes of boxes and is larger than our showroom. We are able to perform all aspects of worldwide shipping from this location and have no thoughts of expanding.

Note: The ninety-percent of our business that goes out-of-state and out-of-the-country is generated through our web site. Not only is every book signed, but every book in the store is on our website.

What do you think the future of indie bookstores will look like?

JR: Our business is such an outlier, we’re not qualified to predict the future of general indie booksellers. That being said, over three decades we’ve had the pleasure of creating relationships with many of the county’s movers and shakers in the businesss and every conversation we’ve had in recent years has been extremely positive. If forced to wager, we’d bet indies will continue to thrive in the near and far future. 

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Article originally Published in the Summer 2024 Issue: Indie Summer Reads

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