The latest asset for starved readers: East End Book Exchange, a pop-up bookstore
Lesley Rains is the creator of the East End Book Exchange, a pop-up bookstore. Here, she samples products while displaying at the Pittsburgh Public Market on Sunday.
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I stare at the four books on the stool by my reading chair. The one on top calls to me to finish it, but I have laundry to do, a tomato stake to right, a pond to dredge, a dog to walk, a dishwasher to unload until, finally, my reward is some hammock time with Marcel Proust's "Within a Budding Grove."
It came from the Carnegie Library on Federal Street, a North Side institution for which I am continually thankful for many reasons besides the decline of bookstores.
But without stores, we can't live in the company of books longer than the date stamped by the library, and I don't want to live without books living with me. Notable are the ones I call keepers.
Over the weekend, I saw several keepers at the East End Book Exchange's moveable feast, a pop-up bookstore at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip: "Sister Carrie" by Theodore Dreiser, "A Separate Peace" by John Knowles, "Bel Canto" by Ann Patchett.
Lesley Rains had unloaded a few boxes of books and set them up in a fetching sales display by the time the market opened at 10 a.m. on Sunday. At 4 p.m., she began returning the remaining books to boxes for the ride home. She did the same thing Saturday at Assemble, a hands-on creative space in Garfield, and before that twice so far at the Commonplace Coffeehouse in Squirrel Hill.
Ms. Rains, who is 31 and living in Lawrenceville, has presented her pop-up bookstore five times since deciding to be the resource she is finding available less and less often.
"I didn't have this idea when the Borders closed in East Liberty," she said, "but I started noticing that there weren't many bookstores anymore. I like books and I like talking to people about books.
"I go to yard sales and church sales" where books are invariably sold. "So I thought, 'Why don't I do this?' "
She is trying to find more pop-up locations on weekends. During the week, she works at the Carriage House Children's Center, a pre-school in Squirrel Hill.
"Response has been tremendous," she said. "On Facebook and my blog, I let people know where I'm going to be. The pop-up model keeps my costs down." (The blog: http://eastendbookexchange.blogspot.com.)
Ms. Rains pays $25 to the Public Market for the privilege of selling for the market's six-hour run on Sundays.
She isn't charged at Assemble, a start-up nonprofit that's an art, technology and learning space, "but we did ask that she asked her customers to donate to Assemble when they made their purchases," said Nina Marie Barbuto, the founder of Assemble.
"We try to offer people a chance to experiment, to bring people in and benefit the community."
Andre Chubb, the manager at Commonplace Coffeehouse, said the opportunity to help her book business sprang from Ms. Rains' regular stops for coffee.
"We would talk about what she's doing, and we loved the idea," he said. "We get a lot of foot traffic. We let her set up" for free. "People have responded well, and this gives her more publicity. It was an organic experience."
From her experience at Commonplace Coffeehouse, Ms. Rains wrote on her blog, "How can you not love a place where the baristas serve you great espresso, then buy your copies of 'Invisible Man' and 'Leaves of Grass'?"
Besides being a bookstore of sorts, it is also a book donation station. Some of the books are her own, some are books her parents and friends have unloaded on her.
She also trades a book for a book or gives a discount for a trade if the conditions are unequal. For instance, hardcover books sell for $6 to $10, paperbacks for $2 to $4.
Sunday at the Public Market, Ms. Rains sold "Fast Food Nation," "Conservatize Me," "Notes from a Small Island" and "The Second Mrs. Darcy," among others.
She sold me "Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I," by Stephen O'Shea.
Back home, it went on my pile on the stool, beneath Hilary Masters' "Post: A Fable," which I bought at a recent book signing; Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story," which was given to me; and Horacio Castellanos Moya's "Tyrant Memory," which the author gave to me.
Just the one came from a bookstore -- the pop-up kind -- but they all have one thing in common: They are all calling for me to finish "Within a Budding Grove."
First Published August 30, 2011 12:00 am