Ventura’s independent bookstores

Megan and Kyle Murai just opened Timbre Books. Photo by Kerri Ducote

by Jill Forman

The demise of the book has been predicted for over a hundred years: first with the popularity of radio, then the prevalence of television, and lastly with the widespread usage of electronic devices.

So far, the book has proved to be remarkably resistant to all these innovations. There is a resurgence of independent bookstores throughout the country, libraries are busier than ever, and “reading” is always at the top of any list of hobbies. Many readers love their e-books, but there is just something about physical books that has a lasting appeal.

Ventura has four independent bookstores; three have been in town for up to 50 years, and one is brand-new. Here they are:

Calico Cat
405 East Main Street
Owner: Peter Margenap

Used, antique, vintage, collectible books in good condition, maps, and prints in a building well over 100 years old that has been a bookstore since 1972.

“People love books and what they represent,” says Margenap, “They love handling books.” Books can be beautiful as objects with fine covers, bindings, paper and illustrations. Books can be handed down through generations. One customer might collect all works by a particular author.

Often booklovers appreciate original fine art done for a particular book, whether pen and ink or watercolor or even pencil sketches. He picks up books and shows the fine paper quality in one, a handwritten dedication in another, gorgeous illustrations in one more. His handling of the books is almost reverential.

Not all books, he points out, are available online.

What keeps him going is the love of books and the interaction with people who feel the same

Bank Of Books

748 E. Main Street

And Abednego Book Shoppe

2682 East Main Street

Owner (of both): Clarey Rudd

Three categories of books: new, used, rare (have books dating back to the 1600’s); the stores also ship world-wide.

Rudd focuses on the joy of helping people. “It is so satisfying to help folks find the book they want,” he says. “Books help people, and they are especially important during the pandemic.” He also credits his “great staff” as one element that keeps him going through 14-hour days.

His parents opened a bookstore in Fresno in 1954, he started working in that store, and he has never wanted to do anything else. He has visited over 1000 bookstores around the country so he has a good grasp of how they work and what he can do to best serve Ventura. He has had several bookstores himself in various areas.

He is happy to have helped the book community it several ways. His stores have given away over 300,000 books. When other stores are damaged or destroyed by natural disasters he will help replenish their stocks at no charge.

He is also proud of his Book Trade program. Customers bring in books and get credit for books at half-price and discounts on new books. This is very helpful to folks on a limited budget, especially these days when so many are having financial hardship.

Independent bookstores are opening up all over, he says. Which is illustrated by Ventura’s newest bookstore:

Timbre Books – Grand Opening October 17, 2020

1924 East Main

Owners: Megan and Kyle Murai

New books, individually chosen by the owners for their clientele.

“For people who love books!”

Megan Murai sees a resurgence of interest in physical books, and wants to take that farther into making a community space for readers. “We want to be a community space for people to read and talk about reading, come in and chat, immerse themselves in the literary world.”

“We hope to carry a selection of well curated new books…that are of high literary quality, diverse in subject, author, and region, and ranging from classic to contemporary titles.”

They currently have a small seating area which they plan to expand when it is safe and have events such as readings, groups, live music, etc.

“We want everyone to be comfortable, from the avid reader to someone who seldom reads. All are welcome to ask questions, talk to the owners, and find what they might like.”

Four stores, four different styles, same sentiment: “We love books!”


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