Q&A with Juniper Books Founder Thatcher Wine
2021 is a big year for Juniper Books - our 20th year of business! In honor of our anniversary, we sat down with Juniper Books Founder, Thatcher Wine, to give you a peak behind the scenes at what created the business you know and love - and to see what is next!
Juniper Journal: We're entering into the 20th year of Juniper Books. Can you tell us a little bit about the evolution of the business and how it turned from a rare books business to what we know and love today?
Thatcher Wine: I have always loved books - both reading and collecting them. In hindsight, I probably have also always been a bit obsessed about how I arranged them on my shelves!
In 2001, I started selling rare books and first editions part time, not planning for it to turn into a full time business. I loved buying old books at estate sales, antique auctions, and bookstores, then listing them on eBay back in those days. I found myself buying ever larger and larger collections of books when bookstores went out of business, or when an estate library was for sale.
A few years after my first online book sales, I was hired to put together a library of 4,000 books for a friend of a friend. The client loved how I listened to all of their interests and built a book collection that the whole family could enjoy; plus their interior designer loved the way it looked.
Word of mouth brought in clients around the world over the next few years, it turned out there wasn't anyone else who listened and paid attention to the details like I did (and there still isn't!). I built a reputation as someone who could find just about any book in the world, curate a book collection around just about any theme, and also someone who was mindful of the aesthetics of books and how they looked in a library or other space.
Ten years after I started selling books, we launched our first "products" - these were book sets wrapped in custom designed and printed jackets. I had started tinkering with the concept and technology for custom book jackets in 2008 and had mainly used them for custom one-of-a-kind projects in the early days (i.e., when a designer wanted an entire room of books in a color palette). Our product line started with a group of children's books, cookbooks, and literary classics that would be easy to gift, or build a library from. The first few offerings included sets of Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway in our original designs.
Now here we are twenty years after I started selling books, more than fifteen years after our first big custom project, and ten years after the introduction of our book sets. We're still a small niche business dedicated to a love of printed books and sharing them with the world in new and innovative ways. While the business has evolved, we still do almost everything we have ever done, which is quite remarkable. Some things we don't advertise on our website, but book lovers, design aficionados, and those looking for the perfect gift know where to find us!
JJ: The New York Times published a big story on you and Juniper Books on January 6th, 2011, what impact did that have?
TW: "Selling a Book By Its Cover" by Penelope Green, was published in the Home section of The New York Times, ten years ago (and ten years after the founding of the business). The New York Times is of course one of the most important publications in the world, but it is also very near and dear to me as it is my hometown paper!
The article was pivotal in many ways. Most directly, it led to many inquiries to Juniper Books for help with projects involving books. Some requests were immediate, but others came years later. What we do is unique and that article really stayed with people so that when they built their dream library, they called me and said "I read about you in The New York Times years ago and have been waiting for the right opportunity to reach out."
The article also explained to my friends what I do! Many of them thought I was a little bit crazy to be selling printed books in an era when ebooks were on the rise. All of a sudden people understood what I do and that I created a very unique career at the intersection of books and design,
JJ: Where do you see Juniper Books in 20 more years?
TW: The printed book has been around for over 500 years, so our 20 years in business is but a small blip in the history of books. I'm more confident now than ever that printed books are here to stay and that there simply is no substitute for holding a book in your hands. I think many people have realized in recent years how much they love bookstores, libraries, and having printed books in their homes. We also have experienced how much more information we absorb from the printed page as compared to screens.
For Juniper Books, we want to continue innovating at the intersection of books and design - reinventing what books and libraries look like and how they function. We plan on introducing more book sets every year that appeal to an ever-expanding audience of people who love the printed book, both for themselves and to gift to others. Our books are designed to last forever and to make the world more beautiful, so we hope to continue to make an impact by encouraging a love for books and design.
Our custom work helps us evolve the business significantly as well. Since we work with thousands of homeowners, interior designers, and others around the world, we are part of a huge creative community. People will come to us with creative ideas for their projects, then we bring them to life. There has never been another company in the book world who has done this - we are able to continuously innovate and do things that no one has ever done before, especially with our custom book jackets.