Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FOUND: Book Mine


Not only have a moved to small town in Northeast Montana, I've moved *away* from bookstores. In our town of ~5000 souls, there is not a bookstore. There was one, but it closed. The county library has a shelf of books for sale. The museum I work at has a gift shop with lots of local authors/ local history stuff, and that's about it for bookstores in Sidney, Montana. HOWEVER, just a short hop away is Williston, North Dakota. There are bookstores (plural!) in Williston. I'll have reviews of each down the road. I need to pace myself.

Hedderich's is a... well... I'm not sure what to call it. It used to be a large downtown department store. I think. Now, it's sort of an antique store, army surplus, model train store. And there's a book mine.

What is a book mine? I don't know if anyone has ever endeavored to define one. I've seen a few in my time as a collector, but they are pretty rare these days. I find they are rarely advertised, don't have websites (beyond maybe a placeholder with hours- typically not updated since 2001). Book mines can have weird hours. I knew of one once that was only open Tues. and Thurs. before noon. A book mine is also huge.

I've called Larry McMurtry's Booked Up in Archer City, Texas a book mine, and it is! Almost nil web presence. HUGE inventory. You could spend days, not just hours looking. It seems book mines tend to be in out of the way places too. Maybe it's just I'm typically in out of the way places.

Hedderich's is *not* the northern plains version of Booked Up. McMurtry's store is top quality stock, immaculate buildings and shelving, and knowledgeably priced. Even back when I was selling actively online, I had a hard time finding stock to make up the cost of my trip and purchases they were so spot on.

Hedderich's is the opposite. There are tens of thousands of books. It is dirty. I could hear something dripping somewhere. Another version of the sign posted above announced these are the NEW prices. It was dated 1992. It was sorted, sorta. Mostly 1940s-1980s, which was a little weird. Nothing very old. Nothing recent. If you're a Soviet/ Anti-Commie collector, this is the place for you! Do you collect self-help, pseudo-religion, pseudo-health? Have I got a score for you! There were more Reader's Digest Condensed Books than I've ever seen in one place. To a collector, there was a lot of crap. But at these prices, who wouldn't be tempted to at least dig a little? I thought I had a gorgeous 1930s booklet from Zion Nat'l Park, but someone had cut 25% of the photos out of it.

All was not lost however. I did find a few books for the shelf myself, but mostly roamed and tried to figure out where everything was. I need to review my old list of book club editions worth $20+ and see if it still holds up.

So, a book mine is:
1. Huge Inventory
2. Almost nil web presence

A book mine is typically:
1. Dirty
2. Cheap
3. Poorly organized
4. Off the beaten path
5. Open weird hours

Anybody else want to take a stab at defining a book mine?



MrCachet said...

I think you have it pretty well covered - at least you didn't get the (mine) shaft! I know of a couple of bookstores here in Helena, Aunt Bonnie's is one, and the other is in a two-story house run by a fellow named Richard Van Nice - and he KNOWS where every book is and has probably read it. Two stories of books? I think that comes close to being an open pit mine, don't you?

Christopher said...

Have you ever watched the show, "American Pickers" on the History Channel? Those guys go picking in a lot of obscure, dirty places, and often come away with some incredible finds... but mostly engine parts for old cars and motorcycles, and other things that are more sturdy and able to survive such harsh conditions... I have yet to see them pick up a book. But a book mine by your definition sounds like the bookstore equivalent to some of the places that those guys have visited.

Shelf Appeal said...

We have an organised version of your Book Mine in Rochester, England called Baggins Book Bazaar. It goes on forever, you loose friends in there. It has stacks of books you'd never want. The air sits on your lungs - full of damp book spores, if there is such a thing. It has an un-nagivable basement and odd classifications. Yet still you think you'll find something unusual and cheap and rare and beautiful. I have to confess I didn't.

Nancy B. T. said...

You should live in New England - or, at least visit once in awhile. In addition to the Numerous bookstores in this immediate area (new & used), including book mines, there are state directories of antiquarian & used, etc. book dealers (ABAA).

We used to occasionally do a book tour, marking out on the calendar the locations of those on a state list and marking out any diners we were able to locate, connecting the dots, so to speak.

Our favorite: Book Farm (in a barn, enormous number of books, all nicely sorted), Heniker NH

Take a tour: