Bound books prevail: Haslam's Book Store celebrates 80th anniversary

During the reign of eBooks, Kindles and Nooks, the livelihood of bound books is being threatened. However, devoted readers maintain an attachment to tangible forms of fiction/non-fiction. Haslam’s Book Store in St. Petersburg is a product of that devotion, and will celebrate their 80th anniversary on Dec. 8 at 2 p.m.

Opened during the Great Depression by John and Mary Haslam, the objective of the store has always been to provide readers with affordable books and magazines. As Florida’s largest new and used bookstore, the space spans over 30,000 square feet and holds over 300,000 books.

Aesthetically, Haslam’s Book Store has undergone very minimal changes over the last 80 years. According to Ray Hinst, a third generation co-owner of Haslam’s, ever since moving locations 50 years ago, there has been only one major expansion.

“We just keep doing what we’re doing,” Hinst said. “People like continuity.”

Hinst believes that although contemporary society relies heavily on technology, bound books have a durability and tangibility that transcends generations.

“This is the media we have used to communicate our history, our morals, our ethics, our philosophy, our lessons, our science and our technology for five centuries. That’s a big deal,” Hinst said. “There’s something about the way the media works. You can carry it with you. You can read it in low light, and it doesn’t run out of batteries.”

Although older demographics have consistently maintained a loyalty to bound books, Hinst credits J.K. Rowling with extending the life of hard-copied novels by making children book lovers in contemporary society. He believes Stephenie Meyer and Suzanne Collins (respectively responsible for the Twilight and Hunger Games series) can thank her for their success.

“The experiences children underwent with [the Harry Potter series] are things they wanted to repeat,” Hinst said. “You cannot fully get that from technology.”

The Haslam’s experience has spanned several generations and caters to nostalgia. Particularly during the holiday season, Haslam’s Book Store becomes a space where grandparents can share a part of their past with their children and grandchildren. Hinst said that he consistently sees customers who sat on the store’s floor and read ten cent comics in their youth bring their grandchildren in to create new memories.

The store itself is run on a legacy—Hinst’s son works at Haslam’s, marking four generations of family involvement.

At the 80th anniversary celebration, several keynote speakers—including Dr. Ray Arsenault—will share their experiences with the store and the Haslam family. Speakers will discuss the store’s contribution to the community, and the event will feature photographs of guests and the store throughout the last 80 years. The celebration will continue at Craftsman House Gallery & Cafe for complimentary cake beginning at 3:30 p.m.

“We’ve always wanted to provide a place where someone who likes books can come and find something for them—regardless of taste, age and your economic status,” Hinst said. “There is truly something for everybody, and that’s something we’d like to continue for another 80 years.”

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