from the Washington Post

Twice-Sold Tales

Used-Book Business Gets a Brisk, if Fragile, New Life Via Internet 

By Bob Thompson Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, December 29, 2008 

“That’s about a million books on those shelves,” Chuck Roberts says proudly.

The owner of Wonder Book and Video is standing in a 54,000-square-foot warehouse in Frederick, waving an arm toward what looks like a combination of the world’s biggest bookstore and a grungy aircraft hangar.

Eight-foot metal and wooden shelves, housing the used books Roberts sells on the Internet, stretch as far as a dust-filled eye can see. Taller, Costco-scale units hold massive, book-filled boxes not yet unpacked. More such boxes, in jumbled heaps, spill into the floor space that remains.

In 1980, when Roberts opened his first used bookstore, he built his own shelves.

“I was my only employee,” he recalls. “So I’d be back there with an apron on, sawing, hammering nails — they didn’t even have screw guns back then — and when the front door would open, I’d take the apron off and go wait on the customer.”

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