Store still thrives despite electronic age
Customer, Arlene Singer shops for children's books at The Book Bin. | Jackie Pilossoph~For Sun-Times Media
Three Hot Reads right now:
1. The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
2. Winter of the World: Book Two of the Century Trilogy, Ken Follett
3. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden, Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer
The Book Bin
1151 Church St.
M-F: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
S: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Updated: October 17, 2012 8:56PM
NORTHBROOK — In this day and age, with iPad, Kindle and Nook sales exploding, why would a reader shop at a book store?
If you ask Janice Irvine, who has been an owner of The Book Bin since the mid-’70s, she’ll tell you it all comes down to her staff, and their personalized service.
“We have 10 very bright, college-educated women working for us,” said Irvine, who has lived in Northbrook since 1956 and who with husband, Lex raised their two children here, “They’re here because they love to read and talk about books, and they will give you an honest review. They’ll tell you what they like and what they don’t.”
The Book Bin was originally opened in 1971, and was started by four women. Irvine, who was a volunteer at both Northbrook’s Greenbriar School library and the Hadley School for the Blind library, in Winnetka, began working at the store in 1974 and shortly after became a partner. When three of the owners’ husbands were transferred out of town, they sold their shares to Irvine and Sue Warner, who was Irvine’s partner for 22 years until she eventually sold to Irvine.
Marla Alexander has worked at The Book Bin for 15 years.
“You can’t browse on an electronic device and you can’t have a conversation face to face with someone who read the book,” she said, “Customers are always asking our opinions, and we like to hear what they have to say about books they’ve read, as well.”
Irvine said hard cover fiction and children’s books are among their best sellers, and that they also sell a lot of cook books, travel books, and gifts for children.
“With the book business being what it is today, sidelines are becoming more and more important, so we sell a lot of toys, games and puzzles for kids, but I always try to have a book connection with all the sidelines,” she said.
Arlene Singer used to be a teacher, and frequently shops at the store for children’s books for her grandchildren.
“If you make time to read to children they will grow up to be readers,” said Singer, “You’ve got to get them when they’re young.”
Singer said she loves when she’s reading to a child, and the child is excited for the next page.
“As adults, we do that too. There’s nothing better than a great book where you can’t wait to turn the page and find out what’s coming next,” she said.
The Book Bin has a huge online presence, where it lists bestsellers, staff favorites, special events, and several book and gift ideas.
“There’s always something new,” said Alexander, “I love when a customer comes in and ask me for recommendations.”
“You can depend on our staff’s recommendations,” said Irvine, “They will tell you honestly if a book is good, in their opinion, or they’ll tell you, ‘It’s not as good as her last one.’”
Irvine said that even though everyone has different tastes, everyone who works here has something in common: a passion for books.
“It’s such a rich experience to open up a new book and to be transported to a new place,” said Alexander, “We get an early edition of a book and we can say to someone, ‘You’re going to love this’ or ‘You’re going to hate it.’”