Meet Your Merchant: At home among friends
William Jenkins sums up his bookstore with a quote: “Books are a very delightful way to make very little money.”
If it’s true, the Comstock Books has made very little money for a very long time, but Jenkins wouldn’t trade it for anything. He’s run his shop at 106 S. Curry St. in Carson City for more than three decades and lives in the house that serves as his shop. He specializes in out-of-print books, especially on Nevada, the West and gold and silver mining, though the variety spans from old comics to the classics.
“I’ll sit here until I drop,” the 78-year-old said. “I don’t want to be anywhere else.”
He started collecting his books almost 40 years ago without much knowledge of the industry, he said. He just started collecting interesting titles until his apartment was so full he was sleeping on them, he said.
It’s the hunt for books that Jenkins said he still loves. The selling of them isn’t nearly as fun, he said. He recounted the time when he was making his usual trip through local garage sales and thrift shops when he found a book by Tom Lea, a Western novelist and artist. He didn’t know anything more about it than it looked interesting.
“I have never heard of it,” he said. “But I figured why not, it’s only 50 cents.”
He brought it home and opened his pricing guide. That 50-cent book was worth $3,000.
He said he doesn’t need to hunt for books so much anymore. Now that his shop is established, they tend to come to him, Jenkins said. And he said he’s read just about every one of his books on the American West.
“Books are good companions, good friends,” he said. “You don’t have to feed them. They wait for you. You can wait 10 years and decide, ‘I’m going to visit this fellow.'”
Jenkins also praised book people as “the best people in the world,” because of their open-mindedness.
Even the book people who give him extra work don’t do anything more than draw one of his affable laughs. On Thursday morning he was reorganizing his mystery collection after a browser muddled them up. It was a task he wouldn’t describe as a chore – after all, it still had to do with books.
“I’m blessed,” Jenkins said. “A guy told me 100 years ago, ‘Do what you enjoy and you’ll never work again.’ And he was absolutely correct.”