Hooked on Books Bookworm Freetime 2005 Review of Hooked on Books

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Where is the first place you should stop in Wildwood? For many people, before the beach, before the pool, it’s Hooked On Books, located at 3405 Pacific Avenue. This is your week to relax, lay back, and read those books you haven’t had time to tackle all year. Hidden away on Downtown Pacific Avenue, Hooked On Books really is one of Wildwood’s greatest treasures. Once you walk through the doors you enter into a whole different world. The music playing is old 1950’s, antique paintings of boats at sea adorn the walls, and the shelves are topped with clowns, dolls, and figurines. But of course, the reason for your visit is for the books, and they have a ton of them. Horror, true-crime, westerns, mystery, romance, new-age, war, history, business, travel, science, religion, cook-books, dieting, self-help, science-fiction, music, movies, art, biographies, classics, poetry, plays, philosophy, sports, comedy, Black culture, Jewish, Irish, Hispanic, cars, planes, boats, and trains.... Hooked On Books is primarily second-hand books, but it also carries new latest best-sellers that are not yet in used circulation. Kieran Linnane, co-owner and store manager has an incredible knowledge of his inventory. Watching customers approach him with questions, without touching the computer he was able to tell them who wrote the book, whether he had it, and where to find it. "It's important that we know our books" he said. "Sometimes all that they have is half a title, or just a character’s name and it’s my challenge to figure it out for them. I can always research it on the computer, but the longer we’re in business the more sticks in my head." Hooked On Books has been in business since 1991, They outgrew their first location which was down the street, but as the years gone by the stock seemed to grow. In 1998 the store moved to its present location which is three times the size of the original and it’s already beginning to burst at the seams. “But we’re not moving again," said Kieran jokingly. "It has gone way beyond movable.”

One of the amazing things about the store is how well it is organized. Every section is clearly signposted. All the fiction sections are alphabetized by author and non-fiction sections are sub-categorized by topic. "I’m over-obsessive about organizing," said Kieran, "but with so many titles you need to be. A lot of used books stores are a jumbled assortment of everything, which can be fun to dig through. If a customer wants a book and I tell him it’s here somewhere and I can’t find it, I lose a sale and he leaves disappointed. In my mind everything has a place, and it’s either in that place or we don’t have it." Another great thing about Hooked On Books is the incredible selection. "If you go to one of the big mega-stores in the malls around the country your first thoughts are ‘This place is huge,’ but by the time you filter past all the coffee-table books and espresso bar etc. and get down to the nitty-gritty paperback selection you’ll find they only carry the most popular authors today,” said Kieran. Co-owner Jim Wright is in charge of hunting down the books. He combs the entire east coast and picks up what’s needed for the store. This week he drove to Florida with many stops between restocking what’s running low. He searches for books 365 days a year even though the store is open five months out of the year. The best reason of all to shop at Hooked On Books, of course, is the price. All the books are discounted. Used paperbacks are approximately half the original price. Used hardcovers are even less. New paperbacks are 20 percent off the cover price and new hardbacks are 25 percent off. "If you read a lot or you have a big family, the cost of new books can add up real fast," said Kieran. "Here you’ll get a lot more books for your buck."

Check out the coupon page in this issue of Free-Time for a coupon to save another 10 percent on used books or buy 10 or more books and save 20 percent extra. Hooked On Books also has specials just for kids. Buy three kids books get the fourth free. "It’s good to encourage the kids to read, they’ll grow up to be adult customers," Kieran joked. And don’t think because the books are used that you are sacrificing quality. Jim buys books only in good condition. Every single book is examined for flaws, any flaws are mended and the books are wiped off with alcohol. Taking that time with every book doubles the workload, but in the long run the quality is appreciated. Kieran says the best sellers of the summer are Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, and, of course, Harry Potter No. 6. Favorite authors like James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks and Nora Roberts always sell like crazy. But what has been very noticeable this summer is the increase in people reading the classics. “We sell Catcher In The Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Brave New World just about every day,” said Kieran. Hooked On Books has been awarded the Best Bookstore in Cape May County for the past six years in Free-Time’s annual reader’s poll. "We have a lot of loyal repeat customers," said Kieran. "They find us once, and they are hooked. And I enjoy seeing and chatting with them year after year." For more information or directions call 729-1132.