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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Linda Burg's Little Read Book

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Charmingly situated in the village of Wauwatosa, The Little Read Book (7603 W. State St.) has survived the rise and fall of big-box booksellers, endured the behemoth of Amazon.com and withstood the ever-shortening attention spans of the American populace. Owner Linda Burg recently took a break from defying the odds and trying to keep Fifty Shades of Grey on the shelves to discuss the challenges of operating a bookstore in these uncertain economic times and to reflect upon her longtime commitment to the "people business."

How did you decide to open a bookstore? Was this your first career?


My first career was as a mother. My mom died in 1978 and a few years later I went through a divorce. I had inherited money from my mother and [the decision] came after much soul searching. I didn't want to just invest [the money], because that wasn't what she was about. My mother was an artist and she had a passion for reading, so because of her, I thought, "What about books?"

What has been the secret to your success?


The secret is that I'm not a rich person. Every couple of years there is a dip in finances and I have to invest more into the store. The years that I don't have to do that are good years. 2008 to now have really been a struggle, but things are picking up.

How has technology changed the way you do business? Are customers reading in a different way?


I think that there are more readers now than there used to be, and I don't think that the technology has hurt us that much. The only thing that has hurt us has been Amazon.com, and the hurt comes from the fact that that money disappears, as opposed to money that comes here and gets put back into the community. ... As far as our customers go, the voracious readers are still voracious.

Do you anticipate making any further changes?


We are always trying to fine-tune the way that we buy and what we buy. That is just a constant, 24-hour-a-day [process]. ... Books don't have a very high profit, so this is not a profession that you get into if you want to become wealthy. This is a business you get in if you have an absolute love for reading and for people.

Do you have a favorite book?


Well, when kids ask me, I tell them that my favorite book growing up was The Black Arrow.

What did you like about it?


It is about a girl who wants to be in battle, so she dresses like a boy and she goes to war. The rest of it I can't remember, but I remember that when I finished it, I thought that I'd gone to heaven.