If anyone else has been as tempted as I have over the past week to close out the 401k, give notice, put the keys in the mailbox, and generally throw up your hands and skip town, be advised that it is possible to do so gracefully. Just make sure you have enough book boxes—it took Lynda "Mad Dog" German and Polly "The Pilgrim" Hinds 1,200 of them and 20 trips in a rental truck. But they managed to move their used bookstore from urban Denver to the outback of Wyoming, 40 miles from the nearest gas station, and it's become a destination of sorts: "'People who like books will find you,' Lynda explained."
The result is simply one of the country’s best used bookshops, specializing, according to Pilgrim and Mad Dog, in "fine, out-of-print and antiquarian books with an emphasis on unusual titles in military history, Western Americana, technical books, foreign languages, children’s literature, and old fiction."
They also have an eclectic antique collection and raise chickens and sheep, with overprotective llamas guarding the flock. Book buyers come from everywhere—as far away as Africa—and they do a brisk mail business.
But other than the simple sign on the edge of the highway, the two booksellers do not advertise.
"If you want to know where we are," said Polly, "you’ll find us. I don’t advertise because if I had $100, I’d buy books."
They have isolation and marauding moose to contend with, and I'm sure a host of other issues, but from this cranky corner of the city that looks like a pretty idyllic place to land. (via Book Patrol)
On the other hand, if you're looking for a more urban itinerant bookish experience, you could always quit the day job and become a book runner. This seems to be more of a British phenomenon—we have street vendors in New York, for instance, but they are decidedly not of the antiquarian or high end variety.
The American equivalent of a runner is a "scout" but they are subtly different. A 'scout' often searches for books for his own stock, whereas the runner almost exclusively sells to other dealers. Ideally he will have very little stock, often just the books that he could not sell (i.e. his mistakes.) There are one or two women, more in America, but it is mostly a male lifestyle. In general their lives go unrecorded; a few pop up in bookselling memoirs.
But that only means the field is wide open for the right entrepreneur. I rather like the idea of making the rounds with a suitcase of rare and musty books, buying and selling as I went, catching a cup of coffee or an afternoon drink with the dealers. I know I have the suitcase, and I'm pretty sure there must be a beret around here somewhere.