On November 17, 1973, new Moscow resident Ivar Nelson opened the door of the brand-new BookPeople of Moscow at 512 S. Main Street, in the space between the Kenworthy and NuArt theatres. Ivar misplaced the key to the store that first morning and was 15 minutes late, much to the chagrin and amusement of the line-up of customers who were waiting at the door.
"Young man," one elderly lady said, wagging a finger at Ivar, "This is no way to start a business."
Fortunately Moscow and the wider community on the Palouse has supported BookPeople despite that early mishap, allowing the store to celebrate its 45th anniversary in November of 2018. The store moved across the street in 1999 to its current location at 521 S. Main Street. More recently during the COVID pandemic of 2020, the customers once again came through to support BookPeople, leaving us stronger and even more resilient at the end of the pandemic than we were at the beginning. The loyal and hardworking staff of BookPeople also deserve as much credit as the customers for getting us through a hard year.
I believe that BookPeople is the longest continually operating bookstore in the state of Idaho. In the entire country, there are not that many bookstores that have been around as long as BookPeople. I am proud and grateful to have reached this milestone.
The name BookPeople comes from Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451." Bradbury's Book People save books when others ban them and burn them. In our society, Book People save books when others are predicting their demise, not publishing them on paper, making money off them without paying the authors a decent living, and selling them online at no profit so that real bookstores like this one go out of business.
You might ask, so what? What difference does a little community bookstore make in the larger scheme? Why do I bother? Because books are not just words on paper. Civilization itself depends on what books offer us: storytelling, sense-making, intellectual freedom, discussion of ideas, transmission of knowledge, opportunities for empathy, insight into others, and shared humanity. Do you really trust the internet or one single company to safeguard those things for us and our children? I don't. I believe the world needs all the independent booksellers it can get.
on behalf of all of us: Carol, Steffen, Nicole and the BookPeople of Moscow staff
Watch video here of interview with Ivar Nelson provided by Marsha Que Sera Productions about BookPeople history.
Listen to an audio here provided by Marsha Que Sera Productions, of an interview with Libby Davison, one of the first BookPeople employees, from 1974 - 1981. Click on this link: https://db.tt/WDEoQuqn
See historical BookPeople photos here.