We want people who are interested in books. They’ll find us.
So say Lloyd and Lenore Dickman, booksellers extraordinaire, Wisconsin, standing like Ruth amid the alien corn. Except for a couple of small details. Lloyd Dickman wouldn’t consider the corn to be alien, it is his love and his livelihood. And Lenore Dickman wouldn’t have a sad heart, she’s surrounded by things she loves. You see, they run an amazing bookshop. They don’t advertise. They don’t sell coffee. The books aren’t catalogued traditionally. And they’re housed in somewhat unusual surroundings, ranging from garden sheds to manure silos. Absolutely amazing story. Take a look at this video:
[Incidentally, I was reading Bibliophile Bullpen today, saw the link to the story, decided I would check it out later. Sometime soon after that I saw Euan Semple’s tweet (which referred to Tom Peters, or, more correctly, Cathy Mosca posting on the Tom Peters blog). Now I couldn’t resist, and I found myself at the same link, and this time stayed on and watched all the way through. Bibliophile Bullpen. Euan Semple. Tom Peters. Three blogs I read regularly. One way or the other I was destined to see this video today.]
I love books, read them voraciously, collect them obsessively. For quite a while I harboured ideas of running a bookshop when I retire, a very simple bookshop. All books grouped into three classes: Over My Dead Body, books that you could see, even touch, but not take away; Make Me An Offer, books that you could actually buy, haggle with me about; and Take It Away Jose, books that you could just carry off in the cloth bags provided. No prices to be seen anywhere. A simple shop, but with a small condition. You had to prove you loved books before you came in. By answering one of five questions written on a blackboard outside. A passion rather than just a profession.
Then Google and mobile phones arrived, and that idea went out of the window. Now I still plan to have a library, at home and at the school I plan to build. The school that I shall retire to.
So. Given all that, you should not be surprised that I was entranced by what the Dickmans have done. There is so much that is remarkable about their story. How a husband and wife have managed to find a way to support each other’s passions. How they’ve built a model to integrate those passions into their daily lives. How they’ve done it while retaining their enthusiasm and their integrity.
Every time I hear stories about people like the Dickmans, it makes up for all the other stories that compete for my attention, stories designed to depress, to sadden, to shock and to corrupt.
So thank you Bill Geist, thank you CBS, thank you Bibliophile Bullpen, thank you Cathy Mosca, thank you Euan Semple.
And, most importantly, thank you Lloyd and Lenore. I shall make my pilgrimage one day. I don’t drink coffee anyway!
Two other things. There is something really important in the “they’ll find us” statement. The anti-advertising recommendation-driven very authenticity of what the Dickmans are doing, all implied in that statement. Something for all of us to think about in this strange world, a world where we’ve somehow managed to migrate the truly appalling business model of direct mail on to online search, a world where we think that’s a good thing….
The other thing is hidden away at the end of the Cathy Mosca post on Tom Peters’ blog:
Tom says if you’re not in love with this video please let us know, and we’ll take you off all our mailing lists
Again, something for us to mull over. How we’re moving to a world where traditional buyer-seller relationships are being replaced by cluetrain conversations between people who share important values.