From the Shop Floor: For the Love of Books

Featherston Booktown Festival is back this month for its ninth year, so we thought it fitting to kick off this month with a profile of a Featherston-based bookstore! For the Love of Books is a melting pot of second-hand books, collector’s items, and new titles, right in the heart of Featherston. Here, they tell us the ins and outs of running their unique business. 

For the Love of Books sells a mixture of brand-new and pre-loved books—these are some of their new children’s titles

Give us a one-paragraph history of your shop.

Our family had always loved books and reading, so when a small second-hand bookshop became available in our little town of Featherston, my parents decided it would be a good opportunity to have our own business that we could work on together as a family. We opened For the Love of Books in October 2013. 

We quickly realised that the premises we were in would not allow us to realise our vision of a well-organised and spacious second-hand bookshop. So, we went on the hunt for other premises, and in December 2016, we were able to open in a much larger building across the road. Since then, we have been open 6 days a week and have seen 6 other bookshops open up in Featherston, as well as the creation and continued improvement of the much-loved Featherston Booktown Festival, which happens every year in May. 

We have now realised our vision to provide an accessible and comfortable environment in which to browse books, that is spacious and well-organised with lots of seating and a children’s play area for the little ones. Because we believe a love for reading is best learned young, we also have extensive, dedicated areas for new and second-hand children’s and young adult books with a huge variety of titles to choose from.

We have now realised our vision to provide an accessible and comfortable environment in which to browse books

What are you recommending this month?

Our recommendation is to follow your interests! We have a lot of the popular series at reasonable prices, including Dr Seuss, Tintin, Little Miss/Mr Men, Winnie the Pooh, The Bad Guys, Dog Man, David Walliams and more! For ANZAC Day, we specially set aside some ANZAC-related titles, including some great books by Michael Morpurgo.

A selection of ANZAC-related titles on display for ANZAC Day

Have there been any exciting or interesting titles that have arrived?

Our philosophy is that we want to encourage as many people as possible to experience the joy of reading. We have a wide variety of books that are well organised and reasonably priced, so you can easily look for specific authors or focus on a particular interest. 

We have all kinds of books coming in all the time, and it varies week by week. A couple of weeks ago we got a whole bunch of Star Wars novels, as well as other sci-fi and fantasy books, and just last week we received some excellent books about drawing and painting. We find something exciting every week and we get a lot of satisfaction from customers finding them in our shop and being excited to read them.

Our philosophy is that we want to encourage as many people as possible to experience the joy of reading

What do you wish was selling better?

Books that are not as well known. We have a lot of interesting second-hand books that are just waiting to be (re)discovered! 

What’s a nice story you have about matching a book to a customer/reader?

We have many stories about matching books to customers, and we get requests for specific books all the time. Even though we have over 25,000 books in our shop, a good number of requests that come in we are not able to fulfil. 25,000 books looks and sounds like a lot, but it isn’t much compared to the almost 130 million unique books currently in the world!

The books we are able to find, though, are often quite special. Sometimes they are books people have been searching for years, or even decades, and so when they are able to find them in our shop, we share in that moment of triumph. We have also had the families of authors, the authors themselves, and the subjects of books come in to find a book special to them. One particular story that comes to mind was a lady who bought a book on New Zealand shipwrecks and casually mentioned that she had been in two of the shipwrecks in the book in her younger years and was interested to read about them!

Snapshots from inside the store. Clockwise, from bottom left: A shelf of brand-new picture books alongside soft toys handmade by Jennifer Grey; a child-friendly shelf with second-hand books; the new children’s play area; and shop owners Jennifer Grey (left) and son Jevaan Grey (right).

What unique challenges/opportunities do you face in your business?

One big challenge for us is foot traffic. We are in a small town on the edge of the Wairarapa, so there aren’t a whole lot of people walking the streets where we are. However, becoming New Zealand’s only official Booktown has been an interesting opportunity, and more and more Featherston is seen as a destination for book enthusiasts.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about things you care about, events you have planned, new initiatives, complaints, compliments, anything?

We have the Featherston Booktown Festival happening from 10-12 May this year with 39 events, 77 presenters and literary provocateurs and 25 booksellers, with presenters including NZ children’s authors Joy Cowley, Gavin Bishop and James Russell. We will be open on the 10th and 11th and will have a stall outside the main events hall on Saturday 11th as well. We hope to see you there!

Find out more about this year’s Featherston Booktown here.

Check out For the Love of Books on their website and on Facebook.