Charlotte County Florida Weekly

The world of printed books grows

Scott Hill and Heidi Lange with son Tyrion Sandman Books family photo.

Scott Hill and Heidi Lange with son Tyrion Sandman Books family photo.

It may look like bookstores are somersaulting into obscurity as online sales and e-readers grab more attention. But that’s not the case with local bookstore owners who have, in some cases, found cause to expand their brick-and-mortar businesses to reach an audience they can’t find online. Here’s the nickel tour of four Charlotte County bookstores, including some insight on how the owners view technology in reading, and what they’re currently reading.

Copperfish Books

Cathy Graham and Serena Wyckoff have run Copperfish Books online for seven years. A few years ago they started selling in antique stores, and currently they’re unpacking boxes of books — and brewing some coffee — for their new brick and mortar shop in Punta Gorda.

Serena Wyckoff and Cathy Graham will open the brick-and-mortar Copper Fish Books in September.

Serena Wyckoff and Cathy Graham will open the brick-and-mortar Copper Fish Books in September.

“We’ve been online all this time and online has become not enough,” Ms. Graham said. “We need the ability to reach a wider audience.”

They’ll sell used, rare and antique books, new books, books by local authors and gifts at the shop, which opens Sept. 1. They’ll keep the online store as well. They plan to have bright yellow walls and new, warm brown bookcases.

“It looks quite transformed from the way it used to look in here — very bright and cheerful and clean,” Ms. Graham said.

You might expect bookstores to be on the decline with the advent of e-readers and online sales, but some local owners have found just the opposite.

“There are plenty of people that say ‘I still love books,’” said Ms. Wyckoff. “They want to see and touch and feel the books. They also want to come to where you think of what a bookstore is, where you can sit and relax and read. Everybody has asked if we’ll have coffee and we say, ‘we will.’”

Ms. Wyckoff recently read Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” while Ms. Graham was immersed in Florida author Patrick Smith’s, “A Land Remembered.”

>> Where: 1205 Elizabeth St., Suite A, Punta Gorda
>> Details: 205-2560;
Opens Sept. 1. Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to
6 p.m.

Sandman Book Company

Heidi Lange and her husband Scott Hill sold books online for four years. Then in 2009 they opened Sandman Book Company in a mostly residential area, close to Burnt Store Marina and the Charlotte and Lee County line.

The shop is now also the domain of a friendly cat, Kitty-Won Kenobi. He is free to roam among shelves filled with thousands of used books, a healthy selection of new ones, as well as rare finds, local authors, DVDs and audio books. Kitty-Won likes to make friends with other pets who visit the store, including a parrot.

While online makes up about half the business, the physical shop in 2011 sold three times what it did the year before, said Ms. Lange, who is 27. It was their best year thus far. Some readers prefer to buy online, though there is clearly a niche that enjoys shopping in person. And while electronic books have gained traction, Ms. Lange finds their paperand ink precursors still have a strong hold on select consumers.

“It’s really a different kind of person that reads on a Kindle compared to who wants to have a book in their hand,” Ms. Lange said.

She is currently rereading “A Game of Thrones,” a book in the George R.R. Martin series. Her son, Tyrion, is named after one of the characters.

>> Where: 16500 Burnt Store Rd., Punta Gorda
>> Details: 505-1624;
Currently, the shop is open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with extended hours in the
winter months.

John’s Pennywise Books & Art Supplies

John McGrath opened Pennywise Books & Art Supplies nearly 11 years ago. The rooms are filled with trade paperback books and fine art supplies, such as acrylic and oil paints. He also caters to local art students, and has a large selection of art instruction books.

His most popular books are generally mysteries and romance novels by writers such as James Patterson, Nora Roberts and Stuart Woods.

While he’s noticed e-reader sales take off, he’s also seen customers eschew them for the ones with paper pages. One older customer got a Kindle from their younger relatives for a gift, he said, but only reads it when said relatives come to visit.

But he also points out that being older isn’t a very good clue to whether someone likes e-readers or not.

“It depends,” said Mr. McGrath, who is 62. “You can’t make a generalized statement because of the fact there are others that love the darn things.”

It’s also a misconception that buying electronic versions of books is always cheaper. That may be true of hardcover books, but paperbacks, particularly used ones, are often cheaper in print, he said.

Mr. McGrath is currently reading “Fly on the Wall,” a murder mystery set in Punta Gorda, written by PG resident and award-winning journalist and author Michael Hirsh.

>> Where: 100 Madrid Blvd., Punta Gorda
>> Details: 639-5646;;
Summer hours are weekdays 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
and Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Book Trader

A stalwart from pre-Internet days, Book Trader has been in business in Charlotte County for a quarter of a century. Marian Zanot, 61, bought the business about seven years ago.

You won’t find an online version of this store. The books are all on the shelves here, a large selection of massmarket paperbacks with a smattering of non-fiction, cookbooks, history, biographies, inspirational titles and more.

“There are very few subjects we don’t touch on at least a little,” Ms. Zanot said.

And there are very few spaces in the store not touched by books.

“It’s pretty much wall to wall books,” she said. “It’s not a real big space but we make use of every inch of it.”

While online stores and e-readers have invariably made their presence felt, Ms. Zanot said, “It’s not something I feel like I have to lose sleep over. But I imagine someday e-books will make printed books a thing of the past, if only because the younger generation is so accustomed to it. I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to see that or not.”

For now, printed books have a loyal audience.

“There are people who dearly love the feeling of having a book in your hands,” Ms. Zanot said. “There’s no substitute for the tactile sensation of having a book in your hands. I personally can’t imagine reading a book on a screen. I understand it’s going to be the wave of the future. It’s just something I won’t embrace personally.”

She’s currently reading a memoir by Adeline Yen Mah, “Falling Leaves,” and in the middle of a John Leslie mystery set in Florida, “Love For Sale.”

>> Where: 2150 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte
>> Details: 624-4878; Open year round Monday to
Saturday 9 to 5 p.m. ¦

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