Last month when I was in Wichita, Kansas to visit my book friend Bruce Woods and do a little self promotion, Bruce set up a lunch with Warren Farha, the owner of Eighth Day Books.
For twenty years, Farha has been in the business of selling books. His store, a converted three story house, holds about 40,000 books specializing in the timeless classics in religion, philosophy, history and literature. It is one most impressive book stores I’ve browsed through in a long time. Fortunately, you don’t have to visit the store to get a sense of Farha’s vision. The store’s 170 page catalog describing over 1200 books provides a well-rounded education in itself, as each listed book has a long paragraph that captures the essence and importance of the book.
What strikes me as much as Farha’s thoughtful passion for books that refresh the soul (and his resemblance to the actor Richard Gere) is the underlying hardworking business ethic that he learned from working in the family grocery business. He understands the daily rituals required for successful retail sales, which includes in his case, gleaning book ideas from customers (on my suggestion, he ordered a copy of Andres Kertesz book, On Reading for his store). Several times a year he takes his offerings on the road to strategic conferences and book fairs. As we ate lunch, he would talk without fear about the new paradigms of book selling. He understands that selling books online (whether it be through Amazon or his own website) is a trend that is not going away.
Farha and his staff do a sizeable part of their business online and by mail order. And if you call them at 1.800.841.2541 during business hours, you will, as their brochure boasts “get to talk to a real, live person.” My recommendation is if you can’t make the drive to Wichita, order that catalog.
Fortunately for us, Farha deals in books that endure. And his store serves as a reminder that there is a market for those who read for more than just entertainment.