An indie bookseller's novel vision of mobile literature

Good books, in Charlie Pugsley’s opinion, are written by authors who have “the ability to imagine alternatives”—different ways of seeing or thinking about the world. Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, Toni Morrison, Richard Wright and Adrienne Maree Brown are just a few of his favorites. “I’m so in awe of those writers,” he says.

That awe sparked the idea for Pugsley’s own alternative, a wandering store called Bookspace Columbus, like a pop-up restaurant but for literature. The concept was born in Nashville, where Pugsley lived briefly after graduating from Denison University. While planning his move back to Columbus, he started collecting books. He went shopping whenever thrift stores held sales and filled a crate, plus his backpack.

“When you go to thrift stores, you’re not going to find the book you want, but you’re going to find a ton of books that other people want,” he says. Pugsley was accumulating volumes, but beyond that, he didn’t have an official business plan. “I thought, ‘I’m just going to do it and evolve it to fit what works.’”

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When he returned to Columbus in 2015, he brought his model for a roaming bookstore with him. Now, with a few folding tables and a curated selection of new and used titles, Pugsley takes Bookspace Columbus (bookspacecolumbus.com) to the seasonal Columbus Fleas and monthly Moonlight Markets. On Fridays, he has a spot at It Looks Like It’s Open, an arts space in Clintonville, as well as a shelf at Dough Mama, a nearby bake shop where he works in the front of house to supplement his bookselling income. He also sets up at poetry readings and book fairs when he’s available. On his Bookspace-branded tablecloths, patrons can find everything from Le Guin and Morrison to zines and anarchist-leaning literature.

“I want to get people lots of other perspectives they may not get from other places,” he says.

The pop-up model has practically no overhead, which works well as Bookspace’s following grows, but it has pitfalls: fickle weather, setup hassles and customers don’t always know where to find him next. Eventually, Pugsley would like to join a host of other local independent bookstores that have opened brick-and-mortar shops in recent years. His book selection would remain the same, and he imagines hosting author readings, musical performances and perhaps even yoga and meditation classes.

As for the other indies sprouting throughout the city, Pugsley sees them as community, not competition. “The independent bookstores do well here, and people love to support them.”

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