Interview With Book Store Owner Joseph Russakoff

In the technological age when large retailers encourage buying brand new products, usable items are readily abandoned and lost to us.

From cars to phones to diet trends, the shelf life of merchandise gets shorter each year due to upgrades and other attention seeking advertisements. Books are no exception; millions of new books replace short-lived titles each year.

It’s reassuring that some people recognize the value of information and insight  wrapped up in the covers of used books. How can we understand where we are if we don’t consider what our predecessors wisely wrote for prosperity?

It’s important to look to the future but we mustn’t overlook the cumulative lessons of those who came before us.

Mostly Books, owned and operated by Joseph Russakoff, is an independent bookstore in Philadelphia, PA that respects the treasure trove of old stories and non-fiction books many people still circle back to.

Located in a series of 19th century workshops, they sell 50,000+ used books, dvds, cds, lps. They also swap books!

Now that I’ve told a little about Mostly Books, let’s get to know the owner a little better.

Hello, Joseph, welcome to Angel Kiss Publications. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you for having me.

What prompted you to open an Independent Book Store?

Social anxiety about working in an office setting, also political considerations. I was expecting by this time we would all be living in communes making solar collectors to barter for tofu.

Things didn’t turn out that way. The next best thing was to open a used bookstore.

Can you tell us a little about Mostly Books?

It has a lot of books; a mixture of thousands of people’s treasured books that they don’t have room for anymore. People often comment that they can feel the spirits of the former owners.

What’s involved with running an independent book store?

The main thing is being able to tell the difference between boring books and interesting books. I realized early on it’s a talent that most people don’t have. The other thing is learning to endure sometimes long periods of deep poverty.

Is competition with online retailers difficult?

They have their lane and I have mine. 

What makes your store unique?

It is pretty much the way everything was, not just bookstores, before the age of the internet. You go through and look for yourself.

More people than you find the helpful hints from Amazon and Facebook intrusive. We won’t make any suggestions unless you ask. And even then we probably won’t.

What are your biggest sellers?

Spooky stuff. Ethnic stuff. Pop culture. 

Do you have promotions throughout the year?

No. We’re a bookstore, not a social club.

Do you have author book signings?

Not in years.


What advice would you give to authors just starting out?

Don’t be corny.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you and your store?

You have to like browsing through books to understand the store. You will be confused if you come with a list of ISBN numbers and expect for me to look them up on a computer.


That’s another thing, our inventory isn’t computerized. You come and look, and find a lot of stuff if you have a curious mind.

What are some of your favorite books/authors?

At this point in my life I am too scatterbrained to focus on one author, although I do like history.

Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?

https://www.facebook.com/mostlybooksphilly/   

Thank you, Joseph, for taking the time to share your story with us. We wish you and Mostly Books continued success and lots of luck!