Owl’s Roost taking books to new places
January 2, 2013, By Marla Blair, If you‘ve driven past The Owl’s Roost and noticed a sign that touts, ‘We buy textbooks’, it might seem like a fitting activity, and non-patrons may have assumed that was already part of the business. After all, the book store and coffee/sandwich shop, 427 Pulaski, Lincoln, is a magnet for bookworms and students of the written word.
For those who appreciate its atmosphere, wi-fi and vertical titles, The Owl’s Roost isn’t just a place. The intimate setting and book-lined walls create a destination, according to co-owner Ed Malkowski. Anyone who wants a quiet lunch, study time or a good read is welcome to spend as much time as it takes.
Malkowski and his wife, Ronda, have almost 20,000 books in their personal inventory - with just a mere fraction of those sitting on shelves at the Owl’s Roost. That was one reason the couple opened the shop in the first place - to share and sell off some of those many volumes. And to give Ed a place to write. Also, Ronda enjoys baking pastries and creating special dinner items. They created a niche for it to come together.
Ronda has sold books online for eight years, so it made sense to add textbooks to her repertoire. It will fill a void in this town that has been uniquely blessed with two college campuses and a satellite center of higher learning. Seventy-five percent of Ronda’s current book business is from ordering books online for customers.
“We have a lot of students here,” Ronda stated, “and there was nowhere to sell back textbooks. Lincoln Christian University closed its bookstore in this last year. If students from any of the colleges come here, I can also order their textbooks for next semester and help find the best price possible. They wouldn’t have access to the same outlets I have subscribed to and my system will search several sources simultaneously.
“If students are interested in ordering their textbooks,” she continued, “it is best to order at least two weeks in advance of classes. Later ordering will result in higher costs for expedited shipping.”
In order to accept textbooks, Ronda has partnered with a New Hampshire company associated with Amazon. The company actually operates five bookstores and has been in business 31 years, so it has a track record in the book world.
The sad fact about the average textbook is that a purchase price is usually much higher than the pennies on a dollar offered when it is returned. Even a good novel isn’t a million dollar baby once it leaves the bookstore and someone has leafed through the pages. Ronda compared it to buying a brand new car, and how it loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot.
“Books have about a one-year cycle,” Ed Malkowski said about leisure reading books. “Popular books are sometimes not worth much once they’ve seen their high point with readers.”
Apparently after the story between the covers has made the talk show circuit and been discussed around the water cooler, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. Which explains why when Ronda exhibited the program’s price search on a random book, the buy-back was very few dollars, even though the retail price displayed on the inside cover was almost $30.
Two Lincoln Christian University students happened to be in the Owl’s Roost Friday afternoon, each with a stack of textbooks to send through the sell-back gauntlet. Ronda can either scan the bar code or use the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Without an ISBN a book cannot be accepted. But books can be paperback or hardcover.
After textbooks are scanned and students decide which they are willing to sell for the offered price, Ronda pays cash for the items at the time of sale. Boxes and shipping labels are provided by the company and Ronda ships after she fills two boxes. The company reimburses her and she makes a sales commission.
Both LCU students - Bloomington native Maggie Watkins and Danielle Morris, from Peoria - had a combination of hardcover and paperback books to sell. Maggie had three paperbacks valued at less than a dollar, but some of the standard textbooks garnered several dollars apiece. She left with $49.73 and was not unsatisfied with her effort.
Danielle handed over a chemistry book that had cost $120 new, and was shocked to hear it was valued at $3.75. Her total was comparable to Maggie’s, but neither saw a big return on the original dollars spent. There are a lot of variables to textbooks - the year of publication, subject matter, demand, etc.
Ronda will scan other books, but since they are not part of the textbook program, sellers are responsible for shipping them to the purchaser. Check at the Owl’s Roost for details. Whether you have a textbook or the latest novel, it’s what you glean from the content that makes it worth more than the list price, or priceless.
You won’t know what it’s worth to someone else until you ask, and Ronda Malkowski’s system is an option that students will now be able to consider as they finish classes and stack up those used textbooks.