Volume 15, Issue 5 ~ February 1 - February 7, 2007

Letters to the Editor

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Please Don’t Overlook Second Looks Books

Dear Bay Weekly:

My husband and I read with interest Margaret Tearman’s lament about the lack of bookstores in Calvert County [Reflection: Vol. xv, No 3: Jan. 18]. For 15 years, we have operated Second Looks Books in Prince Frederick, and we’d like to share some observations.

While romantic illusions attract many of us to bookselling, only cold, hard pragmatism keeps us in business. Calvert is simply not populous enough for the big players (Barnes & Nobel and Borders), and small independents are no longer able to open competitive stores except in demographically felicitous areas (college towns, for instance, though more and more, the chain stores are muscling in there as well). That national trend, combined with the very effective Amazon business model, conspires against the delightful small-town shops that all of us bibliophiles love stumbling upon. 

People new to the county, or those suddenly finding themselves in need of a book, will, on learning that our shop only sells used books, frequently say, “Oh! I guess nobody reads around here!” Uh, no. That’s not it. As Ms. Tearman and her friends will testify, they do read, and we are pleased to stock all of the authors she cites. If she just needs bestsellers, her local supermarket carries those. But if she’s looking for good prices and breadth of selection, in- and out-of-print books, continuous turnover and community, we like to think she can do pretty well at Second Looks Books. 

Ms. Tearman asks, “What is it about this county that attracts so many auto supply stores?” Those auto stores that dot the highway remind us that people move here so they can spend two hours a day in their cars getting somewhere else. We’re just glad that so many of them have stopped in Prince Frederick over the last 15 years.

Ms. Tearman refers to our shop as “charming,” for which we thank her. However, we think she may have meant to call us a “little, used bookstore” rather than a “little-used bookstore.” We’re not so little, though; with 30,000 books, we have 60 percent as many volumes as that beautiful new library across the street, and our titles are refreshed daily. On the contrary, on good days, we feel well used, well loved and well respected, which are gifts greater than gold. On days when there isn’t much gold flowing in, those gifts sustain us.

And while we don’t offer the scheduled events of a major chain store, we have witnessed countless student-teacher reunions; impromptu children’s storytime sessions; friends, neighbors and strangers bumping elbows and opinions over books; and best of all, the oblivious souls sprawled on the floor with their treasures.

We’re grateful to the writer, and all the other readers out there, who value the experience of the terra firma bookstore, and who obviously feel the value of shopping locally. Please, Ms. Tearman, carpool with your friends to Second Looks Books. Feel free to bring in your coffee. Let the gathering begin!

—Elizabeth and Richard Prouty-Due, Prince Frederick

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