by Green Apple’s Kevin Ryan
Lots of retail stores can boast that they offer items for sale in a broad price range, say from $999 all the way down to $.99. But at Green Apple, we can do better than that, not only because we usually have at least a few rare books priced at $2000 and up, but because our lowest-priced books are free. And the selection is usually pretty good. The Free Box has been a part of Green Apple, and a fixture on Clement Street, since we first opened our doors in 1967. Here’s how it works.
We have the busiest used-book buy counter in the Bay Area. Every day, dozens of folks bring in their boxes and bags of books to sell. Because we have limited space, we have to keep control of our used book inventory, which means turning down a lot of good books. Yes, that copy of Madame Bovary is in nice shape, but it’s the third one we’ve seen today. Sorry, but when that Stephen King book came out in paperback, we are no longer able to sell the hardback. Once folks have gone to the trouble of hauling their books in to sell, they’ve often made that emotional break with them, and aren’t interested in lugging the rejects home or around to other stores. And that is where the free box comes in.
The fact is, many books that go into the free box are sellable, just not at Green Apple. For the entrepreneurial sort, willing to collect the books to try and sell at other stores, or to list on eBay, there is profit to be made. This has occasionally led to conflict. Over the years, there have been an assortment of characters who seemed to be making a minor living out of our free box. In the ecosystem of Green Apple, these folks are the bark beetles, breaking down the final remains of the fallen tree and returning the parts back into the cycle. But mostly we consider the free box a community asset. The ideal consumer is the casual passer-by, who spots a book by a favored author, but maybe a bit dog-eared or with a torn cover, and snatches it up.
For more on LARB’s Naked Bookseller program, go here.
“Writers are, in a way, very powerful indeed. They write the script for the reality film. Kerouac opened a million coffee bars and sold a million pairs of Levis to both sexes. Woodstock rises from his pages. Now if writers could get together into a real tight union, we’d have the world right by the words. We could write our own universes, and they would be as real as a coffee bar or a pair of Levis or a prom in the Jazz Age. Writers could take over the reality studio. So they must not be allowed to find out that they can make it happen. Kerouac understood long before I did. ‘Life is a dream,’ he said.”215 notes link >
I’m caught between being very excited, and being disgusted by how they’re overselling it. It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald! Epic-ness is implied, don’t you think?
Philosophy majors can put this up in their shitty apartments. Hey, I can say that, because I was one. We only need books, water, and posters.
James Baldwin. He used to slice people to RIBBONS without even trying.
“But there is no female counterpart in our culture to Ishmael or Huck Finn. There is no Dean Moriarty, Sal, or even a Fuckhead. It sounds like a doctoral crisis, but it’s not. As a fifteen-year-old hitchhiker, my survival depended upon other people’s ability to envision a possible future for me. Without a Melvillean or Kerouacian framework, or at least some kind of narrative to spell out a potential beyond death, none of my resourcefulness or curiosity was recognizable, and therefore I was unrecognizable.”