Story and gallery by KATHERINE ROGERS
The tinkle of a bell, the smell of paper, the sight of colorful covers on the shelves, a friendly face greeting you from behind a counter. Nothing is quite like the feeling of an independent bookstore.
The local bookstore is a unique place. Each of the following bookstores brings something different to the community. All of them create a place for lovers of literature of all kinds to find their people.
The King’s English Bookshop, located at 1511 S. 1500 East, opened in 1977 by Betsy Burton. For the last 41 years it has been a favorite of many Salt Lake City locals.
General Manager Anne Holman explained what has kept the store around all this time. It is the community. The store provides a safe place where readers can connect and discover new literature.
Customers of all ages and backgrounds frequent the King’s English. In fact, Holman said there is no typical patron. “I don’t think readers are ‘average,’” she said.
The King’s English provides more than just books. The store holds all sorts of events. Once a week there is a story time in the children’s section. There were launch parties when the “Harry Potter” series was being released. The tickets for that event went very quickly.
Holman also talked about the authors who have been invited to the store, such as Stephen King and Diana Gabaldon, author of the “Outlander” series. Sometimes these writers have in-store book signings or give talks off-site. The goal of these events is to bring literature to the community.
Holman does worry about online book dealers like Amazon. Not only do these dealers take money away from the community, but they don’t provide the same experience as the bookstore.
One of the best parts of a local bookstore is when you can sense the seller’s passion for what he/she does. This feeling is obvious when you walk into Dark Soldier Comics, found at 8521 S. State St.
Sinai Valero, inspired by her love of comics, opened Dark Soldier Comics with her family in 2014.
At the time Valero was still a junior at Bingham High School. She had fallen in love with comics a few years before, after discovering the “Spawn” series.
After deciding to open the store, Valero wanted to make sure she knew what she was doing. So, she spent a long time doing research on the business. She even trained for three days at a comic bookstore in Las Vegas.
As a result, Dark Soldier is still open while other comic bookstores in the Salt Lake Valley have been closing. Valero credits this to staying on top of the comic trends.
The store sells everything from DC Comics to anime merchandise. At Dark Soldier you can buy single issue comics or a tradeback, a compilation of single issues, if you fall behind on your single issues. Plus, you get a chance to talk comics with Valero, someone who knows and cares a lot about them.
Dark Soldier Comics often has booths at conventions. Anime Banzai is one of Valero’s favorite events. Her booth is among the few that focus on comics, so hers stands out in the crowd.
The internet provides a problem for local comic bookstores. Downloadable comics take away the need to purchase the latest issue at the store. However, those downloads aren’t as friendly as Dark Soldier.
If you’re looking for something more unique, you should check out Ken Sanders Rare Books 268 S. 200 East.
The owner, Ken Sanders, has had many roles before he became an antiquity literary dealer in 1997. These roles have included a “cowboy printer,” a comic book geek, and a radical environmentalist. Each of these roles helped create the matchless atmosphere of the store.
Like King’s English there is no average customer at Ken Sanders Rare Books. Instead the customers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. From the serious literary collector, to young children, who get to pick a free kids’ book, they all enjoy getting lost in the store’s maze of shelves.
Many bookstores have a specific genre that sells better than others. In Ken Sanders’ store the thing that sells best is whatever he and his sellers are most passionate about.
And they are passionate about their books. Sanders often says that he loves “books like Scrooge McDuck loves money.” He has even sold some of his favorite books just by reading an excerpt to a customer.
Ken Sanders Rare Books hosts all sorts of events. It has had readings from authors like Edward Abbey, author of “Desert Solitaire” and “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” and Charles Bowden, author of “Down by the River: Drugs, Money, Murder and Family.” The store even puts on concerts for indie musicians.
Sanders loves these events. He says they feel like a success, not if they make a lot of money, but when they are well attended and well liked. They are successful when they start discussions.
Like other bookstores, Sanders’ biggest concern right now is online book shopping. But one of the best parts of a bookstore, Sanders says, is that you learn about amazing books you never would have heard of anywhere else — books like “Leavings,” a collection of poems by Wendell Berry.
Despite the threat of online shopping, bookshops are likely here to stay. Each of the booksellers pointed out that online shopping does not provide the same feeling independent bookstores do. As Ken Sanders said, “Finding something you didn’t know you were looking for, that’s the serendipity of the bookshop.”