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A spirit that is not afraid

One of a kind Alabama bookstore sells only signed copies

On a dead-end street in South Birmingham sits a bookstore which is the only one of its kind in the world, according to owner Jake Reiss, grandfather of two Auburn students.

The only books found for sale inside Alabama Booksmith’s walls are books signed by their author.

“While many, many very fine bookstores around the country, around the world, offer signed copies, we could find none that only exclusively sold signed copies,” Jake said. “And so we decided to take a chance.”

Starting as Highland Booksmith in 1990, the shop was a normal bookstore. However, in 2012, Jake decided to sell signed editions of books, a move he said has gone well.

In a world of e-readers and prophecies predicting the death of physical paper and ink copies of books, according to Jake, business is booming for Alabama Booksmith.

“It’s been wonderful,” Jake said. “We are going to double our business this year.”

In fact, instead of hurting the business, technology and the Internet are actually helping.

Jake said most of his business is online with customers from all over the world.

“We’ve got costumers in all 50 states and hundreds and hundreds of international customers,” Jake said.

Sam Reiss, junior in graphic design and Jake’s grandson, said he finds his grandfather’s business model interesting.

“He has kind of found his niche market of the people who are interested in the history of the book and more than just the content,” Sam said. “He’s created a really cool business model that I’ve really never seen before.”

Included in the books lining the shelves is Auburn alumna and actress Octavia Spencer’s children’s book, “Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit.”

Jake said Spencer has been to Alabama Booksmith a few times, once to sign her own book and also to accompany her friend Kathryn Stockett when she launched her book, “The Help,” at the store.

“(Spencer) is a dear friend,” Jake said. “Her first visit was when we launched a little book you may have heard of called ‘The Help’ ... if you go to our website ... we’ve got Octavia reading the parts of the maids and the author Kathryn Stockett, Kitty Stockett, reading the white ladies’ parts years before there was a movie.”

Employee Kevin Rodriguez said author signing events bring the most foot traffic to the bookstore and are no rare occasion for Alabama Booksmith.

“We get a fair amount of people in here, especially when we are doing an event,” Rodriguez said. “Roughly, so far, it averages out to about one or two events a week.”

Sam said his grandfather is passionate about the business he has created and the books he sells.

“This is something my grandfather started on his own … It’s kind of his baby,” Sam said. “He has done a lot of work to get it started ... And I really think he is passionate about the signed books and the ties to the authors.”

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