Thursday, August 05, 2010

libros schmibros

I just took one of those great literary field trips that remind me why leaving the office make you do better work. Jamie, new co-worker Cathy (<--not to be confused with sister Cathy or writer friend Kathy) and I dropped in on former book critic and NEA guy David Kipen’s newest, somewhat unlikely venture: a used book store and lending library called Libros Schmibros. As the Spanish/Yiddish name alludes to, it’s in Boyle Heights. (At 2000 E. 1st St., to be exact, since the website will be under construction until David’s DSL is up and running.)

As we arrived one by one, David mildly shamed us for not only driving (it’s right off the Mariachi Plaza Gold Line stop) but taking three separate cars. Yes, we are Angelenos. Then he showed us around: the barred storefront window where two men with very loud tools were carving a door, the vintage Born in East L.A. poster (Kipen was born in Hollywood), the shelf he’s reserving for authors featured at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, which recently spotlighted L.A. literature.

While we talked about all the possibilities for the space—readings! workshops! movies!—a woman with two small kids came in to renew her copy of Shit My Dad Says and return her kids’ copy of Humu: The Little Fish Who Wished Away His Colors.

Kipen, who opened Libros Schmibros the day the nearby library stopped operating on Mondays, is still working out the details of his lending/selling system. For now he loans books out at ten pages a day, meaning that if the book is two hundred pages long, you can keep it for twenty days. “But that means I could lose a real epic for six months,” he worried.

His pricing system is simple and shamelessly discriminatory: “A dollar a book for people in the neighborhood, half the list price for the likes of you people.” It’s sort of a carbon offset/you-look-like-a-hipster tax. But the books are still a pretty good deal.

“I read a blog where there was some debate about whether we were good for the neighborhood or gentrifying it,” he said. “But if opening a bookstore is gentrifying, someone needs to gentrify Beverly Hills. Boyle Heights has one more than they do now.”

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