Book News

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So it goes …

Thanks to all from Ellen, Marg, photo of Lisa, Teresa & Paul.


The Book Vault Inc. – We are history!


In the beginning…

The Book Vault Inc. was established in 1986 by Al Coleman, in the basement of the Festival Square Mall at 10 Downie Street. To start with, The Book Vault Inc. was a comic shop with used books.


Paul Strathdee bought in as a 50/50 partner in 1989 and in 1991, the two business partners decided to move the store to this bright and busy location on Ontario Street. At this time, they also decided to upgrade to new books, comics and graphic novels.


In 1992, Al decided to sell his share of the business, and Lisa Kane bought in and became Paul’s new business partner (Lisa was also Paul’s niece). The Book Vault was now a family business.


A family business…

Lisa especially enjoyed serving customers at the counter, working on book orders and tracking down special orders for people. The Book Vault Inc. was Lisa’s pride and joy and she was looking forward to the plan of buying out Paul and taking over complete ownership of the business herself, in the not-too-distant future.


However, tragedy struck in 2009 when Lisa, at the age of 35, suddenly and unexpectedly died of a blood infection. We were devastated, and the future of the book store at that time was completely unknown.

Day by day, the store remained open, operating without Lisa – and here we are five years later.



In order to survive the “hostile” retail environment, our anti-social owner adopted an alter ego on facebook. THE HULK took up residence as the Book Vault’s new front man. The locals are familiar with Paul’s grumpiness and “ill health”, while the tourists are alternately amused, confused or disturbed.



The end…

In the fall of 2013, we received news from our landlord that they needed to expand their offices into this location.


Moving to another location did not seem feasible considering the time, energy, trouble and expense it would take to relocate a business in a faltering industry. Everyone is aware of the effect of online sales and e-books on independent booksellers.


When we weighed all these factors, our direction was clear – we decided to quietly start liquidating our inventory and wind down the business. Nothing lasts forever, and it was time for us to move on. Retirement was calling after 28 years. Yay!



The Book Vault Inc.

1986 – 2014

End of an era!


You can continue to follow “THE HULK” on

The Book Vault Inc. facebook page.


You can reach us through our website at



A sincere thank you to our dedicated local customers and our out of town visitors for your decades of support!


What’s Next for Us?


Paul is going to lie on a hammock in the back yard for the next 40 years (yeah, right LOL)


Teresa hopes to do some travelling and take some courses.


Marg has retired before… we’ll see if it sticks this time… what with the gardening, grandchildren, cooking, canoeing, hiking, and reading….


Ellen plans on riding some horses, riding her bike, continuing her photography (focusing on affordable rates for weddings). You can find her on Facebook at Ellen Kelly Photography. She also wants to start an Etsy store for her creative work (art and jewelry), and moving her career along until she, too, can afford to retire.




Closing Permanently Sunday, August 17, 2014.



Retirement Beckons!  After 28 years, The Book Vault Inc. is closing its doors for the last time.

Yep, closing permanently.  The owners and employees are ready for a change – the time is right to wrap it up!

Three cheers for almost 3 decades – a good run – hip hip hooray!

To our dedicated customers, thank you for supporting our local independent business.

You helped us:

  • provide up to 6 jobs each year

  • pay business taxes locally

  • donate to local charities

  • support other local businesses

  • draw shoppers from across Southern Ontario to beautiful Stratford

  • add to the liveliness and vitality of our community

To our regular and occasional customers alike, many thanks for 28 years of support!

The Book Vault Inc. 1986 – 2014. The end.
PS. The HULK will continue to entertain and/or harass willing victims on The Book Vault Inc. facebook page. See you there!

Survey: Book Buyers Leaving Amazon Because of Hachette Dispute


The Scream by Edvard Munch is a 1000 piece puzzle from Eurographics. It is available in store at The Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario.

By Jeremy Greenfield – July 22, 2014

Some book buyers may be leaving Amazon for Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores and the likes of Costco because the large e-tailer’s dispute with publisher Hachette, according to new survey data.

Read the full article on

New Books and New Books Only …

Inside The Book Vault Inc. in Stratford, Ontario.




BOOK VAULT  -  As a privately owned independent business, we are able to select and sell books that are, perhaps, not the usual offering that you would find in other book stores.

          We have a variety of new books including:
        • New Releases – new titles, often receiving publicity
        • Best Sellers – our shop’s best sellers, as well as the nationally-listed  best sellers.  These two lists can be very different!
        • Publisher Clearance Sale Books – these are new books purchased from publishers as their overstock – also referred to as “Remainders”.


A note about “Remainders” – because they are clearance books, quantities are usually limited, and they cannot be reordered.  When we’re sold out, that’s the end of that title for us at clearance pricing!  Our selection of “sale books” is constantly changing, and there is no inventory of our books on this website.  The old adage applies – “He who hesitates, is lost”.


Our specialties are HISTORY, FICTION, and COOKBOOKS.  We have a very comprehensive TRAVEL GUIDE section as well.


We invite you to drop in and look around – you might be surprised!

No mail orders … In-store sales only

Shakespeare’s First Folio in Stratford


School of Athens by Raphael is a 1000 piece puzzle from Eurographics. It is available in store at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario.

The Stratford Festival is delighted to partner with the Stratford Perth Museum this season to present an unprecedented viewing of Shakespeare’s First Folio, made available by the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto, in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.

“The First Folio has been described as the most important work in the English language,” says Anita Gaffney, the Festival’s Executive Director. “We feel very fortunate to be able to offer our patrons, who are committed lovers of Shakespeare, an opportunity to view this treasured artifact during this year of celebration.”

Tickets are limited, so get yours soon. More information available at: The Stratford Perth Museum’s Website.

Amazon, Hachette Scuffle Over Terms


Eye on the Prize by Terry Doughtry is a 300 piece puzzle from SunsOut. It is available in store at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario.

May 9, 2013

In what seems to be becoming an annual rite of spring, a dispute between a major retailer and a major publisher over sales terms has gotten nasty, and gone public. The New York Times reported that Amazon is “discouraging” customers from buying books published by Hachette Book Group after what is, apparently, a dispute over retail terms.

Read full article on Publishers Weekly’s website.

It’s getting tough to find a book. But it’s worth it.



Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail


Walk the streets of a major Canadian city and you can buy food from every exotic port in the world, dozens of types of coffee brewed in countless ways, sneakers that cost more than appliances. The only thing that’s hard to find is a book.

Independent booksellers are going down like bowling pins…click here for full article

A rare book store’s last chapter…

930_best_sellers (2)

Best Sellers is a 1000 piece puzzle from White Mountain. It is available at the Book Vault, in Stratford, Ontario.

The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Dec. 20 2013, 4:17 PM EST
Last updated Friday, Dec. 20 2013, 4:17 PM EST

Twenty thousand books surround Steven Temple, but not a single shopper. The disproportion is telling: In February he will shutter his Toronto used-book store and an era of crusty bibliophilia will come to an end.

For close to 40 years and across seven different locations, barely outpacing the creep of Queen West gentrification, he has sold the printed word to the passing trade. At one point in the 1980s, he was surrounded by a dozen other bookstores that took advantage of low rents in the once-shabby district just west of downtown to attract browsers from the city’s towers.
Now in the age of Kindle, he stands alone, a specialist in rare Canadiana from another time whose second-floor shop is both out of sight and out of mind for the fashionable retail strip’s trend-seekers.

“These people can’t and don’t read, and they’re off in shallowland,” says the 66-year-old Mr. Temple with the gruff bluntness of his trade. “They’re not my customers. If they manage to find their way up here, they get lost in space, they’re way over their heads.”

He doesn’t exactly make it easy for them. He reluctantly commutes from Welland, Ont., and is generally open to the public only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons – though he does promise extended hours for a mid-January clearance sale. But to restore the lost connection between book and buyer – and clear space for his retreat to the home-based online dealership he’s run since 1998 – he’s priced the entire tight-packed room at a discount. Everything above $25 (anyone need a 1780 translation of 1001 Arabian Nights?) is half-price, anything below that (such as a 1971 hardcover of Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women) is $5.

“All interesting and mostly uncommon books,” states his sales flyer with an understated enthusiasm that the book trade’s English Lit. grads know to call litotes. “No junk.” Almost all of his stock is hardcover, in respectable condition and of a certain age – the passage of time and taste has turned old dust-jackets into eye-catching artifacts of a vanished era, and even an early guide to North Bay ends up looking like an Art Deco mini-masterpiece.

Mr. Temple came to Canada as a U.S. war resister in 1970 and leveraged his literature BA into a clerk’s job at a Yonge Street soft-core porn emporium that, with the era’s rebellious streak, also stocked counterculture poetry, memoirs and fiction. While he was happy to sell barely used Playboy magazines and Harlequin bodice-rippers when he first set up shop for himself across from the Rex Hotel in 1974, his second-hand tastes have always been literary and off the beaten track.

“What yanks my chain about books is rarity,” he says from his low perch behind the sales counter (though he’d rather be doing paperwork in his back room, and tells the phone to “Piss off” when it rings). “Some people go for what you might say is sentiment, they like inscribed copies. Others are very visual and like a book’s design. But rarity gets me every time. Collectors are kind of warped individuals: They like to have something their neighbour doesn’t have and be able to brag about it. That’s not wholly rational.”

It was easier to brag when he had neighbours in the trade. But he still can muster pride in a 1920s calendar of Canadian verse, designed by Thoreau MacDonald, that he acquired for the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. “It’s the only known copy, gorgeous and as rare as it gets.”

The operative principle of his business is to chase books that are obscure or forgotten – because that’s where the used-book world’s hidden values lie, in the fluctuations of reputation, in the gap between a seller’s underestimation and a collector’s tightly focused desire.

“I work the dark corners and I’m good at that,” he says, sounding like a character from one of the first-edition noir novels on his crime rack. “I can take money from places where you wouldn’t think there was money to be had.”

He holds up a book, The God of the Machine, from 1943. Inside is a closely typed six-page letter written by its author Isabel Paterson, an impoverished Alberta farm girl who became a pioneering figure in the American libertarian movement.

“Nobody’s heard of her. I’m not a critic. But I do need to know what mattered. And this stuff mattered. You ought to want it.”

Most people don’t, of course – the lesson of Queen Street West. But a few people will always want what’s unwanted, and that’s a need he knows he can still satisfy.

Link to original article on The Globe and Mail’s website

Artists struggle to survive in age of the blockbuster


Almond Branches in Bloom by Van Gogh is a 1000 piece puzzle from Eurographics. It is available at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario

Credit: Russell Smith

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Nov. 28 2013, 5:00 PM EST

Last updated Thursday, Nov. 28 2013, 5:00 PM EST

In the artistic economy, the Internet has not lived up to its hype. For years, the cybergurus liked to tell us about the “long tail” – the rise of niches, “unlimited variety for unique tastes” – that would give equal opportunities to tiny indie bands and Hollywood movies. People selling products of any kind would, in the new connected world, be able to sell small amounts to lots of small groups. Implicit in the idea was the promise that since niche tastes would form online communities not limited by national boundaries, a niche product might find a large international audience without traditional kinds of promotion in its home country. People in publishing bought this, too. The end result, we were told, would be an extremely diverse cultural world in which the lesbian vampire novel would be just as widely discussed as the Prairie short story and the memoir in tweets.

In fact, the blockbuster artistic product is dominating cultural consumption as at no other time in history. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on each successive Hunger Games, and the rep cinemas have closed. A few sports stars are paid more individually than entire publishing houses or record labels earn in a year.

A couple of prominent commentators have made this argument recently about American culture at large. The musician David Byrne lamented, in a book of essays, that his recent albums would once have been considered modest successes but now no longer earn him enough to sustain his musical project. That’s David Byrne – he’s a great and famous artist. Just no Lady Gaga. The book Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, by business writer Anita Elberse, argues that the days of the long tail are over in the United States. It makes more sense, she claims, for entertainment giants to plow as much money as they can into guaranteed hits than to cultivate new talent. “Because people are inherently social,” she writes cheerily, “they generally find value in reading the same books and watching the same television shows and movies that others do.”

Well, the same appears to be true of publishing, even in this country. There are big winners and there are losers – the middle ground is eroding. Publishers are publishing less, not more. Everybody awaits the fall’s big literary-prize nominations with a make-us-or-break-us terror. Every second-tier author spends an hour every day in the dismal abjection of self-promotion – on Facebook, to an audience of 50 fellow authors who couldn’t care less who just got a nice review in the Raccoonville Sentinel. This practice sells absolutely no books; increases one’s “profile” by not one centimetre; and serves only to increase one’s humiliation at not being in the first tier, where one doesn’t have to do that.

Novelists have been complaining, privately at least, about the new castes in the literary hierarchy. This happens every year now, in the fall, the uneasiness – after the brief spurt of media attention that goes to the nominees and winners of the three major Canadian literary prizes, the Scotiabank Giller, the Governor-General’s, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust. The argument is that the prizes enable the media to single out a few books for promotion, and no other books get to cross the divide into public consciousness. And, say the spurned writers, this fact guides the publishers in their acquisitions. Editors stand accused of seeking out possible prize-winners (i.e. “big books”) rather than indulging their own tastes. This leads, it is said, to a homogenized literary landscape and no place at all for the weird and uncategorizable.

But even if this is true, what can one possibly do about it? Abolish the prizes? No one would suggest this – and even the critics of prize culture understand that the prizes were created by genuine lovers of literature with nothing but the best intentions, and that rewarding good writers financially is good, even necessary, in a small country without a huge market.

It’s not, I think, the fault of the literary prizes that the caste system exists. Nor of the vilified “media” who must cover these major events. It’s the lack of other venues for the discussion and promotion of books that closes down the options. There were, in the nineties, several Canadian television programs on the arts. There were even whole TV shows about books alone. Not one of these remains. There were radio shows that novel-readers listened to. There were budgets for book tours; there were hotel rooms in Waterloo and Moncton. In every year that I myself have published a book there have been fewer invitations and less travel. Now, winning a prize is really one’s only shot at reaching a national level of awareness.

So again, what is to be done? What does any artist do in the age of the blockbuster? Nothing, absolutely nothing, except keep on doing what you like to do. Global economic changes are not your problem (and are nothing you can change with a despairing tweet). Think instead, as you always have, about whether or not you like semicolons and how to describe the black winter sky. There is something romantic about being underground, no?

Look on the bright side: Poverty can be good for art. At least it won’t inspire you to write Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Globe and Mail

Thanks for the tip, I’ll get it on Amazon


Christmas shopping in Stratford, Ontario

by Brian Bethune on Saturday, November 30, 2013 5:00am

Independent booksellers have taken a lot of body blows in the last two decades—from the coming of superstores such as Indigo, through the real behemoth on the block, Amazon, to ebooks—to the extent that some indie stores in the U.S. have donation jars beside their cash registers. But nothing has gutted the indies, emotionally as well as financially, as the practice known as “showrooming.” Prospective buyers come into bookshops, wander the stacks, peruse the artful displays and even—unkindest cut of all—seek the advice of staff. Then they leave, those who bother to do so first, and order the books they want online, where prices can be up to 50 per cent cheaper. “That is so hard for us to take,” says Eleanor LeFave, owner of Mabel’s Fables children’s bookstore in Toronto, “especially the abuse of our staff’s time and expertise.”

Showrooming is widespread. Surveys in the U.S. and Britain reveal nearly half of book-buying decisions are still made in bookstores, a percentage far higher than actual sales. (Amazon alone accounts for about 40 per cent of American book purchases.) Still, booksellers’ laments elicit little sympathy in a price-conscious commercial society. Internet commentators tend to shrug. If you can’t compete on cost, you can’t compete, end of story—just as it has been for 300 Canadian bookstores in the last decade, perhaps a fifth of the total.

But the issue is not that simple. The services, if not the products, of bookshops are still in demand: No one has yet found a substitute for browsing in them. The reasons why bricks-and-mortar booksellers, especially independents, can’t compete with online retailers, particularly Amazon, are numerous, occasionally complicated and always venomously disputed. If the indies can’t compete on price, it’s equally evident the online sellers can’t (yet) compete on guidance and immersive experience.

The indies’ main competitive edge can actually add to the booksellers’ frustration over showrooming, according to Tracey Higgins, co-owner of Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton. “All we have is our knowledge—the books we’ve read, our ability to tell someone, ‘Yes, I know that’s an awful cover, but it’s a really good book’—so you have to invest the time. And when you never see them again, it really, really drives me bananas.”

What to do about the situation—how, depending on perspective, to either bolster or replace bookstores—is a huge dilemma in the trade. There have been moves from each side. Last summer, Amazon bought GoodReads, the social reading network with more than 10 million titles under review. It was clearly an attempt to create a virtual browsing experience, even while online evaluations were coming under more scrutiny than ever. Last month, New York state regulators fined 19 companies $350,000 for posting their own fake reviews.

In France, on the other hand, where it has been illegal since 1981 to discount a book more than five per cent from its cover price, the government is poised to ban any discounting of books that are shipped to buyers, effectively making online stock more costly than a bookstore’s. Quebec is considering a quasi-fixed price for books in the first nine months after their release, limiting discounting to 10 per cent in that period. Both measures are aimed at Amazon, which European critics accuse of dumping—providing goods and services below cost in order to capture market share—and its offer of free shipping.

In the more robustly capitalist Anglosphere, though, it’s doubtful the French and Québécois plans will fly, nor anything at all that smacks of price-fixing. And that goes for Higgins’s observation that if the major publishers, “who give those humongous discounts to Amazon in the first place,” stood unified against the practice they wouldn’t have to do it. Nor is there reason to expect virtual browsing to capture readers’ hearts, minds and trust like actual browsing. Here, then, the existential issue remains: Everybody loves bookstores, but nobody wants to pay the prices that keep them alive.

Link to original article

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