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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Tens of thousands of books ready to take home as part of Page 42’s annual free book fair

A stuffed shop giraffe presides over the stacks in the Page 42 Book Sore on Nov. 26, 2019. The shop is hosting its annual free book fair on Friday and Saturday at the Northeast Community Center.  (Spokesman-Review photo archives)
By Azaria Podplesky For The Spokesman-Review

By the numbers, Page 42 Bookstore is like the little engine that could. Though the bookstore comes in at around 1,200 square feet, the employees process more than 10,000 books a month.

While many of those books line the store’s shelves, many still reside in the back awaiting their chance to go home with a reader after a Page 42 quarter book sale. But when the weather doesn’t lend itself to an outdoor sale, shop owners Emily Peterson, Alicia McCann and Jacob McCann take their books to the Northeast Community Center for a free book sale.

Yes, you read that right, every book is free. The third-annual Page 42 Free Book Fair is 3-7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday.

Many of the books at the book fair come from donations to Page 42 as well as purchases Peterson and the McCanns make from estate sales and storage units. Peterson said they don’t throw away books unless they’re damaged beyond repair by mice or mold, which, when quarter sales aren’t an option, results in a full storage room.

“The reason we do the quarter sales is not for the profit but to rehome the books in a really efficient way,” she said. “We decided to give them all away during the winter so that we could empty out our back room and continue to not throw books away. And then making it free allows it to be an enormous celebration of the love of literacy.”

“Love” is the right word for it. Last year’s free book fair drew more than 1,500 readers. The event was scheduled for two days, but all 10,000 books were taken home by the end of the first day.

This year, Peterson has around 20,000 books set aside for the fair, books for readers of all ages and fans of all genres. She is particularly excited about many of the children’s books that were donated for the sale – books about equality and inclusion and books that showcase children of color.

“Being a used bookstore, a lot of our stuff is older so when I see great diverse kids content, I get really hyped,” she said. “Everybody should see themselves on the shelf.”

Readers are asked not to take more than 20 books from the fair to ensure there is plenty to go around. Peterson wants to stress that, while resellers are welcome to shop at the bookstore, the free book fair is just for readers.

“Because our prices are so low, there absolutely is room in the middle to make a profit,” Peterson said. “Our quarter sales are an amazing spot for flippers to find good finds, but this event is my gift to Spokane readers and it is not for reselling.”

In keeping with the book fair as a gift, Peterson and the McCanns teamed up with local organizations to give information and resources to readers. This year’s fair will feature a SNAP representative and someone with information about free government phones as well as canned food and coats.

Peterson said Page 42 is working to build a community around accessible literature. Books not sold during quarter sales, for example, are donated back into the community through little free libraries, prisons, hospitals and organizations that accept book donations.

“I want to promote the idea that the more that you give, and the more you support the community, the more the community supports you,” she said. “Every time I’ve had a hesitation about giving away too much and I’ve chosen to jump and give away anyway, the community has lifted us higher every single time.”

She also wants to remove the financial barrier between readers and books, pricing 90% of the books in the store at $5 or less. There is an account set up in the store through which children can pick out a free book funded solely by people donating money or store credit.

“I do not put any money in that account,” Peterson said. “I would if we had to, but I’ve never had to … I would love to take credit for it, but really all I’m doing is holding the resource in the middle, while one person puts it in my hand and somebody else takes it out. I’m just here to be a conduit.”

To help keep reading accessible, Page 42 recently launched a book passport. For $42, passport holders can get a free book of their choice, up to $10 in value, from the store every month. Passports will be available in store and online through the end of January.

Readers should keep their eyes out for more community events at Page 42, including vendor fairs and small business bingo, throughout the year. Peterson said she loves planning events and has a lot of fun things in the works.

“I love to have other small businesses work together with us, because we’re really all on the same team,” she said. “We live in Spokane. Our revenue stays in Spokane.

“We vote and we show up to town hall and we care about the community so we want to encourage the people of Spokane to remember to shop local and support those that are supporting them, and I think Spokane does a really amazing job at that.”

Readers don’t have to wait until a call for donations to bring in their books; donations are welcome anytime Page 42 is open. Peterson asks those looking to drop off multiple boxes of books to call ahead so she can prepare a space to sort the books.

“I so often hear ‘If it wasn’t for you, they were going to go to the dump,’ ” Peterson said. “I want to be an alternative to that, even if the books are a little rougher. There’s obviously limits, but there’s always a reader for every book. It’s my job to connect them.”