San Antonio Books
9:16 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Nine Lives: Recycling Books, Movies & Music

Extended interview with Suzanne Farnsworth

When you bring in your used books, movies and music to sell at Nine Lives Books they won't give you cash.

What they give you instead is store credit, credit that Manager Suzanne Farnsworth says is "rather generous" compared to what you might get in cash from a bigger used book store of a similar model.

What this does, she said, is to ensure that the people who come into her store are people who love to read or watch movies themselves, and not just people looking to get rid of boxes of books simply because they are taking up space on their floor or in their garage.

This policy has turned Nine Lives into what you might call a recycling center for used items, and "because of that I am able to utilize every item that comes in the store," said Farnsworth.

"If I have a vinyl record that's scratched that looks like someone danced on it, I don't throw it away. I sell it as a craft record because you can melt them in the oven and turn it into anything you want, it's amazing. Just to re-use, that's my legacy to my grandchildren," she said.

Something about this re-use of things is really uplifting. It feels good knowing that fewer books are rotting in a pile of garbage in a landfill or being deconstructed in a recycling center, even if those books have to sit on the shelf for years and years.

Buying new selling used

"I buy new books," said Farnsworth. "I may read books here, but if it's one of my favorite authors I will go to Barnes and noble and I will buy.

Credit Chris Eudaily / TPR

She said that it is vitally important to support Barnes and Noble because of its position in the current industry as the only major seller left that caters to a wide variety of customers. As we outlined before, the closing of Borders (one of the major sellers) in 2011 actually helped the industry condense, but Farnsworth reinforced that there is still a need for a major seller -- just maybe not two or three major sellers.

She did admit that initially major sellers were the "bad guy" for independent sellers, "but that's not the case anymore."

Farnsworth said she thinks that Barnes and Noble is perhaps the last stand against Amazon and their control of both print and e-books, but her reasons for being a new book buyer herself go deeper than just that; she understands that the purchase of new books is integral to her own business.

"As a used book store, if somebody doesn't go and buy a new book -- whether it's at Walmart, Target, Barnes and Noble or an independent -- they have nothing to come and trade in to me and I can't sell you that book for half," explained Farnsworth.

Reading makes the world a better place

Studies have found that reading helps improve mental health, and has even been linked to improved social and physical well-being as well.

Farnsworth said that reading is vitally important for young people to expand their view of the world and to gain a better understanding of that world.

"[Reading] just helps them in their life. It helps them think better. It helps them not to assume things just because they heard someone say it on the radio or TV or blog that that's the way life is... To explore places around their world so that the world really does become a global village and not just because you can jump on your computer, but because you can actually understand it."

Nine Lives' success is in their ability to shape their own market and then continue to provide the types of products that that market wants to buy.

For Farnsworth, though, recycling and reusing books and other items is about connecting to the world around us.

"Ultimately it gives us a better world because we become the best we can be," she said.