Going to a bookstore seems to be a universally recognizable experience. Everyone seems to know the smell, and everyone seems to know how that smell makes them feel. However, every bookstore seems to have its own uniqueness that sets it apart from the rest. Reader’s Corner, a used bookstore on Hillsborough Street, is set apart by many qualities that make it an attractive destination for students and non-students alike.
Owned since 1980 by retired veteran Irv Coats, Reader’s Corner is situated across the roundabout from Cup A Joe and Nice Price Books & Records on Hillsborough Street. Coats has been “hustling books since 1948,” works seven days a week and hasn’t missed a day of work in years.
“Used bookstores take on the personality of the owner,” Coats said. “That’s what makes them interesting. Also you can buy stuff not just from today’s collection. You can buy things from the past. It’s a nexus for everybody in the community.”
Reader’s Corner definitely fits the bill in the interesting category. The store seems unorganized when you walk in, but as you browse around, you see everything has its place, and everything is in its place. The stacks are divided by genre in the fiction sections and by topic in the nonfiction sections. Separate racks are blocked off for comics, movies, CDs, cassette tapes and records. If you look hard enough, you can even find some vintage postcards, pictures and prints for sale.
“They have one of those atmospheres that just makes you want to spend an hour browsing around,” said Maddy Arena, a second-year studying marine science. “It’s that really personal aspect of Reader’s Corner that really sets it apart. You get this feeling of not just literature, but other people who were there and read the same books.”
Being a used bookstore, Coats acquires books and other media in a variety of ways. The most obvious is donation. Sometimes the store is called when someone in the community passes away to collect their books. This allows Reader’s Corner to be the link that continues the living legacy of this person, while allowing them to give back to the community one last time.
“You get to see the whole life of a person; there’s all their books and everything that they did,” Coats said. “We get to take it. It’s just lovely.”
The store is small, and there isn’t a single spot that is not in use. Books are stacked on the top shelves and pushed as tightly as possible into the bookends. Even the sides of the shelves and the small amount of empty wall aren’t empty. They’re covered in weird bookmarks, photos, notes, quotes and other remnants of past owners put on display. There’s even a spot to buy old photographs that have been donated intentionally or unintentionally.
Because they receive books from a variety of sources, this used bookstore can cover almost any topic you need to read about. From classic fiction to modern fiction. From art history books to AP study books. From Bibles to Playboy magazines, you can find almost anything at Reader’s Corner.
Price shouldn’t be a hang up either. Reader’s Corner prices their books affordably, with books being half of the price originally listed on the book. Outside of the store, there are shelves with books selling for 10 and 25 cents.
Reader’s Corner is open seven days a week, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is requiring face masks. The store is a place where a person can find something they will enjoy and a great place to browse and talk to some of the interesting people who come through the store.
For more information, visit the store’s Facebook page or visit the physical store at 3201 Hillsborough St.