The mark of a good bookseller is creating an
environment of comfort for literary enthusiasts as they discover new works.
The mark of an excellent bookseller is having the resources to locate
out-of-print books, and when the masses demand it -- republish a much loved
paperback. Frank Reiss is an excellent bookseller.
Cappella Books in Atlanta's Little Five Points -- the South's
answer to Greenwich Village-- caters to the tastes of the bohemian
neighborhood. The bookstore specializes in the Beat Generation, the 1960s,
counterculture, conspiracy theories, anarchism, radical politics,
non-classical music, hoboes and gypsies. Listed on Atlanta's CitySearch Best
of 2003 List, A Cappella Books is a trendy place to be seen -- but forget
I grew up in Mobile, AL and Atlanta, hoping to some day become a writer.
After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Latin and a
lot of experience in journalism, I moved to San Francisco and was
contemplating grad school, when...
I took a part-time job at a tiny used and rare bookstore called Acorn Books
in San Francisco's Tenderloin district (not exactly the section featured on
postcards or visited by tourists). Eventually it became a much larger store
(it remains one of the biggest and best in the Bay Area) and I became the
manager. After about 5 or 6 years it seemed like it was time to set out on
my own, so I returned home to Atlanta and opened A Cappella Books in 1989.
How has the business changed?
After almost 15 years of the business changing so little it almost got
boring, the last 5 or so years, because of the internet, have seen such
fundamental change I question almost daily whether or not any of my past
experience is of any value to me. I know at some level it is, but with the
ease with which anybody can now buy or sell books, it has become a daily
challenge to see if we can keep moving books enough books here to stay in
business. So far we have, but as I have been saying a lot lately, each year
we do a little bit better, but we have to work a LOT harder to do so.
What does an independent bookstore have to offer that the chains can't?
We like to think that our knowledge and passion for books is greater than
that at the chain stores, but I know for a fact that there are countless
knowledgeable and passionate book people who work for chains, because that's
where most of the bookstore jobs are now. But book people don't generally
relate too well to the corporate mentality, so independent stores generally
have a better spirit about them that originates from the greater congruity
between the people who work in them and what they're require--or not
Tell us about your employees? Their backgrounds and ability to
I have two long-term and full or near-full time employees, Ken Mallory and
Glen Thrasher. Both are unbelievably well-read, though only Glen has any
formal higher education. Ken's knowledge comes from a lifetime of voracious
reading and about half a lifetime of selling books. His tastes vary fairly
widely but the unifying appeal of most of his favorite books and authors is
their relative obscurity. That doesn't necessarily translate to a lot of
hand selling, but our stock is a lot more interesting because of Ken.
Glen is truly omnivorous in his tastes, devouring everything from Dean
Koontz to James Joyce. You'd be hard-pressed to name any important piece of
literature in English--and a lot that aren't so important--that Glen hasn't
read. For any serious reader, his knowledge is a great resource.
How can hand selling help an author's sales and a bookstore's sales?
We certainly have our favorites and enough dedicated followers that we can
sell a lot of titles that might otherwise not do too well, but we really try
to cultivate a clientele with well-developed enough tastes that we primarily
just try to stock as many great books as possible and let them sell
What personal services are you able to offer regular and/or new
We can help anybody find most any trade book they're looking for, in or out
of print. We extend discounts to book groups, and for every person who buys
any book from us, we offer what we call our "Reading for Extra Credit" card,
on which we give a stamp for every dollar spent, and when the card is full
with 100 stamps, it's worth $15 on their next purchase. Basically, it's a
15% discount for regular customers.
What type of promotional events have you held in the
We've hosted a number of authors, and really enjoy making each event unique.
Two that come to mind are an event for a baseball book we had last year, A
Cup of Coffee by Rob Trucks. We had peanuts and Cracker Jack,
Coca-Cola and beer as we talked baseball with the author and a couple of
ex-Major League pitchers featured in the book. Also, for Mike Tidwell's
wonderful but tragic book about coastal land loss in Louisiana, Bayou
Farewell, we had a Cajun band, gumbo and crawfish pie.
Are there any new writers and/or books you or your employees are excited
We've been very supportive of a local author, James Gallant, whose book, Big
Bust at Tyrone's Rooming House, is an extremely well-done portrait of
his in town Atlanta neighborhood, Grant Park, a very typical gentrifying
urban area. It takes on a lot of complex issues with great honesty and
What upcoming events are on the calendar?
We're cooking up something fun and as-yet-to-be determined in March for
local newspaper columnist and NPR commentator Hollis Gillespie's new book, "Bleachy-Haired
On Sunday, February 29th,
at 7 p.m., we're hosting a
launch party for a book we're reprinting about the early days of the Athens, Georgia music scene, Party
Out of Bounds by Rodger Brown.
- Originally published in 1991, Party
Out of Bounds remains the only account of the early
- days of the Athens music scene written
by someone who was present throughout the
- entire period. Brown, who has written
for such publications as The Village Voice and
- The New York Times Magazine,
lived in Athens from 1977 until 1987.
- At the time of its publication, praise
for Brown’s book included such comments as this
- from Billboard Magazine: “For
fans of the bands, rock historians, and followers of the
- indie scene, this is a “Party” worth
attending.” And from the San Francisco Bay Guardian:
- “With a book like Brown’s …we can
revisit, again and again, a mythic place of lust, youth,
- music and eyeliner: fragments of our
past, shards of our present, refractions of our future.”
- And R.E.M.’s Peter Buck acknowledged
that the book “really captures the rhythm and feel
- of the Athens music scene. Rodger
should know—he was there from the beginning.”
- The new edition features entirely
redesigned cover art and interior graphics, capturing more
- appropriately than the original book
the look and feel of those long ago days. Since the original
- edition of the book went out-of-print,
it has become a much sought-after title in the rare book
- market. This edition is published by
the publishing side of A Cappella Books.
- Buying and
selling quality books in all fields since 1989
- Publishing Party
for Party Out of Bounds by Rodger Lyle Brown
- Sunday, February
29th, at 7 p.m.
Party Out of Bounds:
- The B-52's, R.E.M. and the Kids Who
Rocked Athens, Georgia
- by Rodger Lyle Brown
- Everthemore Books, 2004 (re-issue)
- Trade paper, $16.00 (221 pages)
Southern Scribe Review
Pam Kingsbury, All Rights Reserved