BY LEE ANN SANDWEISS
When Eric and Catherine Brown bought Caveat Emptor Used Books in 2016, they didn’t want to make a lot of big changes to the storied institution.
“We wanted to let the books do the talking,” Eric says. “We wanted to tidy up here and make some subtle changes there, but mostly we wanted to offer the Bloomington community great books of literary, historic, and intellectual value, just as the store had been doing for 45 years.”
On January 1 of last year, the Browns purchased an estate of 4,600 books that included approximately 600 leather-bound classics, mostly from the Franklin Library and Easton Press, publishers of collectible reproductions featuring embossed covers, gilded pages, and satin bookmarks. The books serve as the core of a new display near the store entrance.
“We thought it would be good for people to walk in and be greeted by this wall of beautiful leather-bound classics,” Eric explains. “They’re colorful, eye-catching, and signal new ownership, but also the store’s ongoing commitment to great literature. They are also surprisingly affordable. You can usually get a gently used leather edition classic for what you’d spend for the same title in a new paperback from Barnes & Noble.”
Eric says customer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. “I’ve been surprised by it, honestly,” he says. “The vast majority of what we sell is used books for under $10. I really didn’t think our clientele was interested in collectible books. I put them up to greet customers, and the next thing we knew they were flying out of the store.”
With approximately 80,000 books in climate-controlled storage, Caveat Emptor never lacks for books, but the Browns want Caveat Emptor to be an active filter for the Bloomington book-buying and -selling community.
“We want to be the central hub for that to take place,” states Eric, even while acknowledging the location of the Book Corner just down the block. “I’ve found that booksellers are naturally complementary. It’s a dying profession and dying art, and we all want to see each other not only survive, but thrive.”
The shop is located at 112 N. Walnut. For more information, visit caveatemptorbloomington.com.