Gulliver’s Books is traveling

Photo credit: Molly Putman

Drifting among the once over-flowing shelves of Gulliver’s Books are now half-off stickers and freshly cleared sills in place of old novels and furniture.

The independent bookstore, which has become a central element of the Fairbanks community over the past few decades, first opened its doors in 1985 under David Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth decided to retire several years ago after a lengthy and successful period as owner, according to the current owners, and in turn sold the bookstore to the Wiskemans in October of 2012.

“In the heyday of the store, before online shopping and before the box book stores showed up, there were three locations going at one time in Fairbanks, and two in Anchorage,” said Bryan Wiskeman.

Nowadays, there is only one, and as of September 23, Gulliver’s Books will be moving from their long-held location on College Road.

After several years of running the bookstore in this spot, the Wiskemans have decided to move to a smaller venue. The store’s owners cite today’s economy, in which independent bookstores such as theirs have been playing an increasingly smaller role, as the reason for the store’s relocation to a condensed storefront.

Despite financial problems, the owners greatly wished to continue running the business. Closing the Second Story Cafe, in addition to downsizing their inventory and store size proved to be the best plan to improve Gulliver’s financial problems.

The news that the bookstore was not closing, but merely downsizing, was met with great joy by the Fairbanks community, as evidenced by the outpouring of support on the store’s Facebook page.

Fairbanks resident Grace Moore writes that Gulliver’s “is a special store” and writes she is “happy they are not leaving.”

“Shopping online takes forever, and can be untrustworthy,” said Ashley Sookiayak, a freshman studying nursing, who expressed her preferences for shopping independent bookstores like Gulliver’s.

Such comments contradict what has appeared in recent years to be a departure from in person shopping. The movement away from bookstores and to the likes of computer screens and electronic readers has proved problematic for many independent bookstores across the country. According to American Booksellers Association, there were twice as many independent bookstores twenty years ago as there are today.

However, independent or local bookstores possess certain assets which the online world cannot offer. In spite publishers lamenting the death of the independent bookstore in years previous, this panic has subsided with dropping E-Book sales and could be the reason why independent bookstores have recently begun to once again increase in number, according to an article from The New York Times.

“While analysts once predicted that e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply,” Alexandria Alter wrote in the 2015 article. Such research indicates that a possible uprising of the previously endangered bookstore business may be underway.

The Wiskemans say that customers can expect much of the same from the new store. The smaller size will allow them to more easily individualize the running of the shop to what their customers most desire. Such a setup will further set them apart from online providers, and also maintain the unique Alaskan charm which their store brings to the city.

If students wish to search for books and other knick-knacks amidst the freshly stocked shelves of Gulliver’s Books, they can visit the store’s new location at 372 Old Chena Pump Road. The bookstore is scheduled to reopen their doors the first week of October.

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1 Response

  1. Bryan Wiskeman says:

    Thank you for such an incredibly well written and thoughtful article. Ms. Barber is the most professional journalist I have had the pleasure of meeting during our time as the owners of Gulliver’s. Keep up the good work!

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