Selling Books the Old-Fashioned Way at Ojai's Outdoor Bookstore


The reaction is nearly always the same for those who discover Bart's Books on a shaded street in downtown Ojai-how can a book store keep books outside without ruining them in the rain?

Without missing a beat or acting like they've answered the question too many times, the friendly clerks reply that the covered awnings protect the books enough that the rain never seems to get them wet. Since the bookstore built into a small house and spilling out to its tile, covered patios has been around for over 40 years, you have to believe that they're not making it up.

How the book collection in a home grew into over 20,000 books now on display in shelves in the small living room, kitchen, and other places, isn't much of a mystery. An avid book reader, Richard Bartinsdale, constructed book cases along the sidewalk outside his house so that people wandering by could stop and browse the titles. His collection of books had become overwhelming, and the interest in the outdoor shelves next to flower boxes under windowsills, was immense, so he devised a plan. "Bart" placed coffee cans atop the book cases, creating an honor system that allows people passing by to take books they like 24/7, and leave payment in the cans. It is a system that began around 1964 and has survived into the new millennium.

While you can "check out" books any time, be sure to drop by when the store is open to get the whole effect of the situation. It's very cool, and makes you want to stick around, sit in one of the lawn chairs after you have wandered the house/store and have picked out some favorite reads.

Bart's Books, 302 West Matlija Street, Ojai, Calif. (805) 646-3755,

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