Man reinvents bookstore by putting it on wheels


The bookmobile's name is "Big Blue" and she's making appearances at farmer's markets and community events throughout the East Bay.

Dave Simpson is the owner of the 35-foot custom-made bookmobile -- a vehicle that represents his rebirth as a book seller in the Bay Area.

"As I was falling asleep one night, I thought wouldn't it be neat to have a taco truck for books? And then I realized they exist and they're called bookmobiles and nobody had really used them in a retail context," says Simpson.

In July, Simpson closed his Lafayette bookstore for good. It was the oldest in Contra Costa County, which first opened in 1963. Simpson fully intended to stay in the business through special events and online sales. Then, he found "Big Blue" on the Internet and she became part of his reinvention.

"This was decommissioned from the Ypsilanti, Michigan public library. It was about 10 years old when they decommissioned it," says Simpson.

Simpson flew to Michigan, purchased the bus and drove it back to California.

And as far as Dave Simpson knows, his bookmobile will be just one of a handful in the country being used for retail book sales.

Rather than waiting in a brick and mortar store for customers to come to him, Simpson will bring his books to them.

"We'll be at the Lafayette Farmer's Market, the Lafayette Art & Wine Festival," says Simpson. "We were invited to a neighborhood block party, which we're going to."

Even with all the events, Simpson knows it will be difficult to compete with online discounters. He says he'll give Big Blue about a year and if it doesn't work out he could always sell it.

"In the short time I've owned it, I've had two people coming up wanting to purchase it. One was somebody who wanted to pull it into his backyard and make it his library and another was an absolute hippie who wanted to be Ken Kesey and drive it across the country as a hippie bus," says Simpson.

Big Blue's appearance schedule can be found on Facebook at The Bay Area Bookmobile.

Big Blue will be open to the public Wednesday night in Lafayette at the annual book fair at Happy Valley Elementary. The bus will appear at a number of Bay Area events in the coming weeks.

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