DJ Ernst Books: A Bookstore in Space
A bookstore is a distributor of literature and culture (Tebbel, 1975). The place and operational strategy of the bookstore will determine the effectiveness of distributing literature as well as making a profit. DJ Ernst is a bookstore located in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania and specializes in collectible, antique, and out-of-print books (DJ-Ernst Books, n.d.). The location where a bookstore is located and how the bookstore serves as a place is an important part of the existence of an independent bookstore. DJ Ernst is a place for some but is located in what many other people consider space.
Place is somewhere that is meaningful to people while space is relatively not important. Space is something that is not meaningful or used by people who consider it space (Cresswell, 2004). Selinsgrove is space to most people in Pennsylvania because 11/15 diverts drivers away from the town. Growing up I would come off the exit and onto 11/15 every year to go to our cabin up north, and I was so close to Selinsgrove but never in it.
The bookstore is not space however. Market Street collectively is a place for the community to gather. This community is comprised of the locals and the students of Susquehanna University. Every year in September there is a Market Street Festival that is busy and filled with hardworking business owners and vendors. The community prides itself with small businesses such as Wicked Dog, The Kind Café, Que Brew, Nomad Studios, and Bot’s Tavern (to name a few). The sidewalks are wide and well-lit, making it easy to navigate and inviting to get to these spots. The success of these businesses relies on both communities.
DJ Ernst is not a hot spot for activity like Bot’s or Wicked Dog but does serve the community. The first time I went to DJ Ernst was more than 3 years ago. I noticed the bookstore utilized every inch of space to stock with books, making it more challenging to find books than in a Barnes and Noble. Upperclassmen were in the store and wanted to buy books but did not have money on them. The owner allowed them to take the books now and come back to pay later. He claimed the honor system has not failed him yet. One of the main purposes of the bookstore is to spread literature and the honor system allowed it to spread more effectively.
Part of American culture is the gratification of shopping as well as having people observe you shop. Shoppers do not just shop because they need an item, but to flaunt that they are buying that item too (Miller, 2007). DJ Ernst is across the street from The Kind Café. The shop offers a place to sit and relax over lunch and to possibly read a book purchased from DJ Ernst. It is also important to recognize that the Selinsgrove Library is near both of these locations. The library is also means of dispersing literature but is not a competitor of DJ Ernst. People who buy books gain happiness from the act of purchasing it. Borrowing a book does not provide the reader happiness from consuming because they will need to eventually return it, removing it from the reader’s collection.
With DJ Ernst’s purpose in the community established, it is time to think about the type of community DJ Ernst serves by being a place where literature is distributed. Outside of the college, the locals are mainly white. Median household income is about $41,000 as well. However, households that make between $75,000 – $1000,000 are the most common in Selinsgrove (Data USA: Selinsgrove, PA, 2017). With these demographics, it is safe to say that DJ Ernst is not a place were people to gather discuss diverse cultures. The low median household income also indicates that there are households that do not have a lot of disposable income. This is a problem for bookstores such as DJ Ernst that sell more expensive and collectible books. The college community however has a greater appreciation and willingness to spend on these books. In DJ Ernst’s biography on Biblio, it mentions “Susquehanna University, with their expanding writing program, is located in Selinsgrove. Thus, several of my customers are writers or aspiring writers.” DJ Ernst Books highlights aspiring writers as who he commonly serves.
The college is a revolving door of outsiders that define Selinsgrove as a place and defining DJ Ernst as a place. Avid local readers and shoppers find Market Street as a place for supporting small businesses to be part of a community. However, Selinsgrove is just a small town that is space to those travelling up and down Pennsylvania, limiting DJ-Ernst’s potential to distribute literature.
Cresswell, T. (2004, June 7). Place: A Short Introduction. Short Introduction to Geography. Blackwell Publishing.
Data USA: Selinsgrove, PA. (2017). Retrieved from Data USA: https://datausa.io/profile/geo/selinsgrove-pa/
DJ-Ernst Books. (n.d.). Retrieved from Biblio: https://www.biblio.com/bookstore/dj-ernst-books-selinsgrove
Google Maps: DJ Ernst Books, Selinsgrove Commons
Miller, L. J. (2007). Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. University of Chicago Press.
Tebbel, J. (1975). A Brief History of American Bookselling. Bookselling in America and the World . New York City, New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co.