Life at Bookwagon

Kirsten Bakke and Carl Hilton opened Bookwagon New and Used Books in the Ashland Shopping Center in August 2000. They specialize in used books of all categories, and have a large selection of childrens and young adult titles. They also sell the latest new bestsellers for 20% off retail, and they special order new books at a discount. In addition to ordering out of print books, they also give trade credit for used books in excellent condition.

How old were you when you first started reading books?

Kirsten: I started reading Little LuLu Comics at age 8, and then graduated to The Nancy Drew mystery series.

Carl: I got interested in Spiderman Comics in Middle School and then read The Complete Sherlock Holmes from cover to cover, and after that I was hooked on reading.

Your Top 10 Books of all times?

Kirsten: Top 5 – Emptiness Dancing by Adyashanti, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Hitchhiker Trilogy by Douglas Adams,. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Carl: Top 5 – Lonesome Dove by Larry Mcmurtry, The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, The World According to Garp by John Irving

Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind Bookwagon?

Kristen: Carl owned a bookstore in Lansing, Michigan in the late 80’s. We decided to get back into the book business in the late 90’s when the Internet was becoming a strong platform for book sales. Bookwagon was conceived as a store that offered the prices and selection that would compete with Internet sellers and offer the community a local bookstore experience.

Describe a few of the different types of customers you have coming into the store? (ex mystery readers, romance etc.)

Carl: We serve a wide variety of customers from all over the valley. Some people read only one or two categories or genres; mystery, romance, horror, sci-fi, literary fiction, history, spiritual, etc. Other people come in looking for one specific title, recommended by a friend or book club, and then there is the classic browser, who comes in with nothing particular in mind and wanders the store from section to section picking whatever strikes their fancy.

Do you see that reading trends are being driven by reviews and media or is it something else?

Kristen: The biggest trend for driving book sales is when a book is made into a movie. Of course it never hurts to be on Oprah ,but the next biggest factor is word of mouth. We know a really good book that will become a bestseller, when someone buys a copy, reads it, and then comes back for 2 or 3 more to give away. There is no marketing campaign that can compete with good word of mouth and buzz.

You obviously get asked alot of questions in your line of work. Do you try to help customers by offering your opinion or by trying to figure out what they are really looking for?

Carl: Most people will tell us what type of books they like to read, and then ask for a recommendation along the lines that will fit their taste. I will recommend books outside of their comfort zone if it is of excellent quality. Great writing trumps genre when it comes to recommendations.

Books, like people, can travel. Share a little bit about any obscure or interesting books which have traveled into your hands.

Carl: Kirsten recently received a book which had originated in Pennsylvania, then traveled to Australia, before ending up in Ashland. There is actually a website where you can register a book and then track it around the country called

Do you have your own collection of books outside of Bookwagon, if so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Kristen: We have an extensive collection of nonfiction and classics. We bring home approximately 100 books per month to read or browse and return to the store. It is one of the perks of owning a bookstore.

Customer loyalty and – Share a little bit about the experience of buying a book in person vs on line?

Carl: Many of our customers go out of their way to shop with us and other local merchants. Ashlanders are very cognizant of the fact that there is a need to support the community by shopping locally. Also, they can get their books faster without paying any additional shipping and handling fees. A small percentage of our customers want the best price, and if we can’t compete with an on-line price, we send them to the Amazon search box through our web site at Any purchases they make, including e-reader books, that go through the Bookwagon/Amazon portal, support the local economy. We also have customers who read a book on their e-readers, and then come in and order a hard copy, because they want it on the shelf.

Are there any events or book signings coming up at your store?

Kristen: We host The Ashland Mystery Readers Group book signings and events between March and September every year. Friday, September 10th at 6PM, Adam Woog, Crime Fiction Reviewer and Columnist of the Seattle Times will be at Bookwagon. Join us for an interesting and informative evening.

The Book Wagon is located at:

1652 Ashland Street
Ashland, OR 97520-2327
(541) 488-4477

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Shields Bialasik

Hi, I am Shields. I am the creator or LocalsGuide. The mission or my company is to provide a positive media platform for my community which in turn makes it stronger and more resilient. I hope you will enjoy and feel inspired to start your own LocalsGuide in your town or community.

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