With hundreds of books and genres surrounding James on a daily basis at Aldine Books, he finds that the books that he gravitates to the most are ones that make him laugh. He also discusses the enjoyment from books that give him a story or perspective entirely new and different from what he already knows about the world.
But James also uses books for so much more than just entertainment. He notes that when the times get tough, James picks up a book as a means of coping and remaining at peace with the world. This is one of the many reasons why James cannot picture himself anywhere else but at Aldine.
Customers walking through the doors at Aldine Books are instantly immersed in a room with shelves overflowing with book stacks. The charm of Aldine Books comes from the eclectic medley of new and used books, all coming from a range of sources. The bulk of his books come from purchasing and ordering books through Edward R Hamilton, but another sizable chunk of inventory is donated to the shop.
The slew of older donated books makes the selection of editions and prints at Aldine unmatched to larger chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble. While chains might offer the latest book releases, this gem of a shop carries rare works that simply cannot be found anywhere else. While at times it can feel overwhelming for James to have countless books to sift through and organize around the shop, James says that he feels stronger having them around.
In more recent years, the shift to online book sales has had a huge impact on Aldine Books and other indie bookshops. James remembers living through the era when the massive book chain Borders and other bookstores started closing across the nation.
In the face of these major book industry changes, James Tatum hasn’t let his decreased foot traffic stop him from continuing the legacy of Aldine Books. To keep his business thriving despite these inevitable shifts, Tatum opened up his store to an online marketplace. While he has no plans to close his doors and switch to an entirely online platform, it has become an invaluable way for him to make more sales and keep his doors open.
Nowadays, around 85% of James’ sales are conducted online. James notes that while he was initially nervous from the hundreds of bookstores shutting down around him, he remains worry-free and keeps his peace of mind if he’s able to ship at least a handful of online books each day.
By continuing to sell many of his books in person as countless bookstores are switching their operations to a 100% online capacity, James is delivering a great service to his community of bookworms. The joy of sifting through shelves and physically holding books before purchasing one has become a simple pleasure for Aldine’s foot traffic.
Despite the decrease in his in-person clientele, the small yet might impact that James continues to make on his individual customers cannot be ignored. James notes that although he notices fewer customers entering the shop, the ones that do are grateful and thank him for keeping his doors open. James states that many of his customers prefer the brick-and-mortar bookstore experience and doesn’t see why he shouldn’t give them that service and pleasure.
Aldine Books is a staple in the Los Angeles community and feels just like home for James after the 30 years of owning the store. James is forever linked to the magic of the bookstore. He truly cannot see himself doing anything else with his life but continuing to read and sell books at Aldine.
We can all learn from the simple and dedicated way that James Tatum lives his life. While the book landscape might be changing online, entering Aldine Books feels like walking back through time to a simpler day. The quiet passion and commitment that James Tatum has for his livelihood is an inspiration for anyone trying to save today’s declining brick-and-mortar book market.