Stocking up

For more on Indies Under Fire: The Battle for the American Bookstore, visit

I’m not an “average reader.” I’ve read at least a book a day for the last 40 years, with no limits on genre, subject or style—unless it’s really, really, really bad. The stacks at home have gotten so bad that my partner now enforces rules about what volumes can be considered part of the “permanent collection” and what books must simply be “passing through” (not that she has any room to talk—our first date was a trip to a bookstore).

So what does this not-average-at-all bibliophile want from the perfect bookstore? A boatload or two of used-paperback brain candy that I can buy cheap when I’ve left the house without anything to read; the ability to order new books I want; a nice collection of good-condition used books to consider for inclusion in my “permanent collection” and booksellers who are helpful but not intrusive. You know—the kind of booksellers who actually read books.

When I listed those requirements to Peter Keat at Time Tested Books, he grinned and said, “Well, you may not be an average reader, but you’re our average customer.”

The folks at Time Tested will open in their new location at 1114 21st Street (right next to the old store) sometime today—and book shoppers are in for a treat. Keat and Scott Soriano, who’s worked at the bookstore for 19 years, gave me a sneak peek at the new digs. I’m impressed. They started by sand-blasting the new location’s interior down to bare brick, concrete and wood. It’s got large warehouse-style windows and skylights for an open, airy feel—just the opposite of the old, crowded and dark store Midtowners have known and loved for decades.

“We wanted a place worthy of our stock,” Soriano said.

Keat agreed. “There’s no question that the neighborhood is changing,” he said. “We wanted a space that kept us in touch with the people who want a true neighborhood bookstore.”

Besides the refinished, towering—and now widely spaced—bookshelves, the layout for the store includes wheeled shorter shelves that will allow enough space to accommodate up to 100 people for events. “We’re hoping for a variety of events—lectures, some readings, discussions,” Keat said.

Early planned happenings include a screening of Indies Under Fire, a film by Jacob Bricca about three independent California bookstores on the ropes because of warehouse-style book chains.

The new Time Tested is sticking with its roots, though—an eclectic mix of books for adults and children, as well as a selection of vinyl records. Just don’t expect 40 gazillion copies of The Da Vinci Code.

Those are for the average bookstores.