Salt Lake City Marketplace: While traditional booksellers are failing, Eborn has found a niche in consignment book selling and boutique publishing.
by Paige Wiren
Eborn Books sounds like a well-designed marketing name for a modern on-line and conventional retail bookstore, which maybe was part of some innate destiny for store owner Bret Eborn.
A collector for many years, Bret and his wife opened their first store in Layton in 1989. Business grew and the Eborn Books name now graces not only five retail locations from Ogden to Provo, but also enjoys healthy on-line commercial activity, shipping titles worldwide. “At first,” Bret recalls, “I had to seek out inventory, but once I started doing consignment, the books came to me. Now over 500 vendors sell through our store. We often joke that we’re a book magnet.” And a powerful, paper-pulling force it must be because Eborn tracks an inventory of some 500,000 titles.
The newest store, located across from the Salt Palace on 200 South, offers the full scope of Eborn Books’ services. Here you can browse through used, rare and out-of-print books. Eborn’s offering is “heavy on the LDS titles” (their website claims that they are the “world’s largest supplier of Mormon titles”), but “if you walk in off the street,” Bret says assuredly, “you should be able to find something.” More recently, Eborn started buying and selling used textbooks, a business endeavor he describes as a “roll of the dice,” but if his success speaks to how those dice fall, he must be rolling sevens. Eborn Books has also re-published books, and now publishes new authors.
When asked if the presence of another downtown bookseller would thin out any one seller’s business Bret likens the addition of his store to, say, a cluster of antique stores in one urban location. “Multiple bookstores downtown is a good draw for all involved. A young man came in here the other day and said he’s happy that he can now hit four stores all in a relatively small area.”
The used book business is not lacking in excitement either. A few years back Eborn bought two rare books that he did not know had been stolen from the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers museum. “I got home that night and my wife asked me what I thought of the stolen books, and I said, ‘What stolen books?’” Eborn’s quick research helped lead to quick arrests and a quick return of the books to the museum.
Eborn’s next project focus? “I’m starting to branch out into making documentaries based on book reprints.” §