A decade of reading in print

“The best part for a person who owns a used bookstore is to see what’s coming in,” said co-owner of Old Goat Books Scott Wicken, using a book they just received, A History of the Low Country Wars, published in 1650 as an example. The business, open since March 2001, has been a success growing from its initial selection of 3,500 books to around 20,000 books today.

Wicken and his business partner Michael Loubert began the venture because, as Wicken explained, “We thought that uptown Waterloo needed a used bookstore.”

While the lack of used bookstores in the area is an issue Wicken attributed to higher rent prices in Waterloo compared to Kitchener, he said that it was a risk he viewed worth taking. Located at the north end of Uptown, Old Goat
Books has continuously received a lot of business from the high-tech sector, universities and Uptown residents.

“Waterloo is a very interesting place,” said Wicken, assessing the culture of reading. “There are a lot of people reading real books, not reading on little digital machines.”

Discussing the role e-readers and e-books have played in the print industry, Wicken said, “I’m pretty sure places like Chapters and that sort of thing must be making some money on it, or think they are, but books don’t require batteries.”

With an obvious passion for the printed word, Wicken expressed his belief in why books continue to be popular and businesses like his own remain successful. “They’re physical things and for people who like physical things instead of virtual or intangible things,” he said.

“Each season brings out a whole host of new expensive digital devices which are all destined for the trash heap. I prefer books.”

Old Goat Books relies on purchasing its inventory from the public.

“My buying season starts as soon as the snow starts to melt. Everybody starts thinking of spring cleaning simultaneously, so we buy pretty seriously in the spring,” he explained.

While sales are on-going throughout the year, Old Goat Books’ peak season is September to January. “The whole society in terms of buying and selling, in terms of retail, is geared to Christmas,” commented Wicken, also noting that there is an increase in sales in August preceding the new school year.

Explaining what inspired the name of the store, Wicken said he and Loubert both had long sideburns and himself a goatee at the time they were looking to establish the business.

“My wife now she looked at us and said that we looked like a couple of old goats and … it sort of stuck.”

“It sounds more like a pub, which I kind of like,” he added.