Photography by Lance Adkins

Former teacher Melanie Moore discusses how she made her dream of a bookstore on wheels, the Cincy Book Bus, a reality.

Tell us about your background:

I grew up surrounded by books, took weekly trips to the library with my parents, and had a family that often read together. I taught various subjects for twenty-five years at inner-city high schools in Saint Louis, Los Angeles, and Cincinnati.

What was the inspiration for your Book Bus journey?

I always dreamed of one day opening my own bookstore. I came very close to having a brick-and-mortar location but realized it wasn’t the path I wanted to follow. I had just become an empty-nester, so I didn’t want to be tied down. Then, one day, I was sitting at the kitchen table and glanced at my husband’s 1962 VW truck sitting in the driveway. I had recently finished reading Parnassus on Wheels, a book published in 1917 about a traveling bookshop, and thought, “That’s it!” At that moment, the Book Bus was born. He fixed it up, and we added a canvas canopy over the back to protect the books, attached my logo on the doors, and had a friend build the wooden crates.

Now it’s a full-time-plus gig. I work seven days a week and easily put in ten- to twelve-hour days. Because I also sell online, I’m constantly messaging, invoicing, and shipping.

How do you get your books? What kinds do you offer?

I wanted as little overhead as possible, so, in the beginning, I filled the truck  with my personal library of mint-condition books. Then I would shop around at any place that sold used books, searching for the perfect ones to stock up on. This worked great for the first year, and then COVID hit. I could no longer source used books, so I shifted to new books and expanded my online sales. Even though I’m once again hitting the road, I will stick to new books. I’m very particular about the books I choose— I can only fit about 150 on the truck, so I want quality over quantity. I stock mostly adult fiction with some children’s and middle-grade books in my online bookstore, and I use 100 percent of my profits to buy new children’s books to donate to schools and organizations in need.

In your opinion, why are books important?

Every child should have the opportunity to experience the joy of reading, no matter their economic status. I believe books change lives. They open up the reader to the world and experiences they might not otherwise be exposed to. We learn about others, and that, in turn, creates empathy. Within the pages of a book, we can travel anywhere and be inspired to do anything we dream. Just look at my experience—this little bookstore on wheels happened because of a book!

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