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Stewart Klyne looks through his inventory at SK Books & Collectibles on 919C Albert St. Photo by Ethan Stein.

Stewart Klyne is doing something many would consider a dangerous gamble, at best: He’s opening a bookstore.

When visitors enter SK Books & Collectibles they’re greeted with the mingling scents of adhesive, aging paper and weathered wood, as novels, non-fiction books, old magazines and manuals from the last 100 years adorn stalwart wooden shelves. A pile of unpacked boxes lie at the centre of the store, but this mountain is not daunting for Klyne.

 

For 35 years, Klyne was the toast of Lebret, where he owned a bookstore for 11 years while working for the Saskatchewan Department of Highways. Why choose bookstore for a side business?

 

“Why not a bookstore?” he replied.

 

Klyne started by purchasing boxes of books from auctions while researching his family history. He sold unused books through eBay from his basement. Klyne’s collection grew too large however, so he had to make a choice: Keep his books, or his basement.

 

“All of a sudden you’ve got a basement full (of books) and you need a semi to get it out of the basement before the house caves in!,” he said.

 

Klyne operated his Lebret bookstore until he had to vacate the space, as the village council needed it for their new meeting room and village hall.

 

After closing, he sought out a new space that was affordable. A small, vacated building on 919C Albert St. would be the new home for Klyne’s collection.

 

Klyne’s also working with Purich Publishing and Wilde Sage Publishing to sell their books. Furthermore, he benefits from an endorsement courtesy of the Independent Online Booksellers Association, who only supports booksellers that pass inspections of merchandise for their physical quality.

 

He enjoys the money and company that comes from his new life in a bookstore. He also has camaraderie amongst his “coworkers” in other booksellers. He may recommend another bookstore if he doesn’t have a certain item, and other booksellers will do the same for him.

 

“We’re always looking at each other’s product and if we can help the buyer out,” he said.

 

Klyne’s new career came with drawbacks, however; his old job allowed him to work with others in new locations outdoors. Working by himself in the same four walls every day requires an adjustment period.

 

“I get a little bit claustrophobic every now and then, and the closed sign goes up,” he said with a chuckle.

 

Other challenges include deciding a marketable price and dealing with those times when “you’ve got to duck when the books get thrown back at you!”

 

Klyne may have the experience, but does he have the market? According to him, things have never been better for the printed word.

 

“(E-book) Production has dropped probably 85 per cent, they’re only producing 15 per cent of what they were before . . . Who wants to look at a white-background screen all day?”

 

In a strange irony, he sees a renaissance in print literature because of the tactile experience in physically holding a book.

 

“The increase over the last three years have been averaging about 20 per cent from a drop of oh, 40 to 50 per cent, but it’s coming back,” he said.

 

Klyne sees e-books as a dying medium, and the numbers tell a similar story. According to a 2014 report by BookNet Canada, over 60 per cent of prairie readers still purchase physical books rather than e-books. Additionally, nearly 80 per cent prefer physical literature over less than 20 per cent who choose e-books. In September, Penguin Random House Canada’s CEO Brad Martin told Publisher Weekly that digital sales plateaued in 2013 and declined in 2014.

 

Furthermore, the bookstores that have closed in Regina did so because of external factors like rent increases. Although market statistics point to healthy book sales, Klyne is always searching for new customers.

 

“The restaurant down the street is a hook-up place for young guys and girls,” he said with a laugh.

 

“But are they readers?"

 

Klyne wants to keep going as long as he can with SK Books & Collectibles, but success will come one day at a time.

 

“Five years from now? That’s as long as the lease! Or longer if I can stand up, still keep going, carry that box of books.”