Richard Horsley runs Pioneer Book in Provo, which has bought and sold books for almost 30 years. The store has an extensive collection of used books, including college textbooks.
How did Pioneer Book start?
It started in September of 1980, so it will be 30 years here pretty soon. It opened initially as having a family history center, but I got so many calls from people wanting to know if I was doing the LDS Church’s family history. I finally dropped the family history part of the store, went through a doctoral education program at BYU in religious education, and continued the business.?
What led you toward a career in books?
I was a pretty good athlete, and played basketball for the University of Utah, BYU, and the Army. But after the army, athletics suddenly meant nothing to me. I started to concentrate more on research, reading, and writing. For example, I’ve written several different family histories for different people. One of them was the Covey family. I grew up with Stephen Covey, so he and I have been good friends over the years.?
How did you acquire such a vast collection of books?
I started off with about 4,000 books, which were mainly out of my own collection. I soon expanded to about 15,000 books that I bought from a bookstore going out of business in Salt Lake. For the most part, people just bring in books, and I buy em’ with cash if I think I can sell them fast. If it’s something I already have lots of copies of, I tell ’em I’ll trade a book for a book, or give credit for other books of mine. But I usually don’t pay out cash for something I have a lot of copies of. Also, there are several people that make a living going over to Deseret Industries and other thrift stores, garage sells, so forth, and I buy books from them. ?
What deals do you have going on now?
Right now we’re having a promotional on our paperbacks. Any three of them are just five dollars. Individually they cost about $2 or $3. Also, our hardbacks are two for $10. ?
How does your bookstore fit in with other bookstores like Borders or Barnes and Noble?
They, of course, do not have used books displayed. For the most part, they cater to new buyers. In that way, I do not compete with them. The only thing new I carry is some LDS books, because that’s my main market. In fact, I have two or three companies that publish LDS books that are sometimes more controversial, which Deseret Book and Seagull Book will often not carry.
What is your personal philosophy on reading?
The most important thing about reading is that, once you know something, you carry that knowledge with you everywhere. It stays with you; it’s something you incorporate into your being. My own philosophy is that if you’re going to keep something you might as well remember something that has universal or broad application. I usually read family histories, particularly pioneer family histories. Because of plural marriage, there are some big families in the Mormon Church. ?
What have you found in your research on plural marriage?
A lot of people think they [Mormon Church] went into plural marriage because there was a surplus of women, but statistics don’t bear that out. So that’s part of my research; the origin and nature and development of Mormon families and culture. I also became expert on the plural wives of Joseph Smith. In fact, the last thing I gave Truman Madsen, a good friend of mine, was a list of 300 women that had been sealed to Joseph Smith. It was information collected from church records by a man around the turn of the 20th century.
Can you help out college students looking for text books?
We do deal with textbooks. We’ve recognized that Orem and Provo have two big universities, and there’s a lot of students that want to buy textbooks at reasonable prices. In some cases, when a textbook does not carry value, we can give store credit instead of cash. Also, we buy year-round, not restricting it to a limited number of days after the semester.?
What inspired you to open the Trendz Cafe?
The cafe is something my son suggested, along with other improvements like new carpet, nice shelving, and so forth. He thought a place to eat would add some business, and add class to the place. We also want to use the cafe for business meetings, lectures, authors, and get more involved in the community.
Many people have an affinity for old dusty books. Do you think that will keep business coming for you in years to come??
I’m banking on that. A lot of people do want the hard copy, and not just new or online books. But I also think it’s about good selection, good writers, and good pricing. I think my 30 years experience comes through, and when people come in they have access to a wide variety of books on just about any subject. ?