Emily Peterson managed Page 42 Bookstore for a year and a half before buying the business outright. Originally, visiting the bookstore as a Gonzaga University student, she teased the previous owner about how the store was set up. He listened to her opinions and offered her a job fixing the problems she pointed out. Peterson designed the store in precisely the way she envisioned it. When the former owners decided they were done with dealing with the delicate dance of running a business, she bought it with her friends Alecia and Jacob McCann. Their first anniversary of ownership was in January, and Page 42 Bookstore in Spokane prides itself on making books and the knowledge that comes with them available to all.
When she first started cleaning up the business, the books weren’t alphabetized, and it was a chaotic ” treasure hunt,” says Peterson. Pulling every book off the shelf, the trio sorted and alphabetized by genre so people could find things quickly. “Most changes happened behind the scenes, and it was hard work, but situating [themselves] to become a sustainable business was a worthy hassle,” says Peterson.
Their goal is to be “the low-price leader for books around Spokane,” says Peterson. “80% of our books are three dollars or less.” They have sidewalk sales during the summer months, where over 5,000 books are offered for only 25 cents. These sales are weather dependent. Watch for fun events, sales, and exciting things to be posted on their Page 42 Bookstore Facebook. “Income should never be a barrier between people and quality reading materials,” says Peterson. People they’ve touched send thank you notes that can be seen on their wall of gratitude in their back room.
The remaining books from the 25 cent sales are donated to prisons, Compassionate Addiction Treatment rehabs, veterans, Frontier Behavior Health, Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, Little Free Libraries, and teachers. “It’s all about how we can spread books around to the community,” says Peterson. “If anyone has a community cause that needs books, we’re here to help.” Spokane CASA and Joya families get a permanent 20% discount. “If you’re building something or hosting an event, we’re happy to donate,” Peterson adds. “We want to spread the love of reading and the power of books as much as possible.” They welcome any organization to get in touch.
Often, free book fairs are hosted at community centers like The Northeast Community Center, where they gave away 7,000 books over three days. “At these events, you can take what you want with no limits,” says Peterson. “People can even stack up on an entire series.” Many of the books in the store and at these free-book events are processed from large-scale estates and the generous donations that come from the community all year.
Page 42 Bookstore currently has two buildings full of books — an in-person store and their online shop warehouse. A huge kid’s area is featured in their in-person store. It’s one of the best kid’s areas of any used-bookstore in Spokane. Tons of reading materials, tables, chairs, and big puzzles can be found in the kids’ area, so moms and dads can feel comfortable that their children are entertained and safely corralled as they’re shopping. Speaking of kids, the store is working on a “read to win” program like Silverwood does with their “Read 2 Ride Program.”
People can trade in books and get in-store credit decided based upon searching the value on the internet. They pull pricing directly from the internet, and typically, the books are about what they would profit if selling online. “Say products are $6 on Amazon… we take the middle man out of the picture and give the customers the discount,” remarks Peterson. It’s well-known that Amazon sells at a low price, “deliberately pricing out the competition of small businesses. The book market is not stagnant, and it’s always ebbing and flowing.”
“The Dr. Seuss books weren’t actually banned; they were pulled from the publishing line,” Peterson notes. “The community reacted as if it was banned, with 12 people asking for a book that hadn’t sold in over fifteen years. This instance was a private company making a private choice, which is their decision. However, it’s a bit strange to have control taken away from parents and students when a school district or government attempts to take the choice away. Freedom of literacy should always exist,” and Page 42 Bookstore will sell things regardless of bans. “It’s a danger to the access of knowledge to put a ban on books.”
Page 42 Bookstore has seen so many blessings. “The more we lift up our community, the more they lift us up in return,” says Peterson. Last year, they were featured in Spokane Quaranteam when they filled up Little Free Libraries. “The post got shared so many times that a flood of people came in wanting to be part of what they’re doing,” she remembers. Sharing a simple post to spread the word immediately impacts small businesses. “Word of mouth is powerful,” says Peterson. “It’s everything. We don’t have a large advertising budget, but people spreading the word lifts small businesses out of the dire straits of the pandemic.”