In the Age of E-Readers and Amazon, Russell Books Is Stronger Than Ever

Victoria's Russell Books has been family-owned for 26 years. The bookstore, which has hundreds of thousands of books stacked on its shelves, is booming — the managers say the business has never had a down month. 

Photograph by Jeffrey Bosdet.

It’s a reality across the country: many once-booming independent bookstores are shutting their doors.

But not Russell Books. Here, business is better than ever.

Visit one of the business’s two downtown locations and there’s no sign at all that books are going out of fashion. Hundreds of thousands of books — mostly high-quality used books, as well as new, collectible and rare ones — are neatly stacked from floor to ceiling. And Russell Books’ collection is only growing, with shipments of new books and people bringing in from 500 to 1,000 secondhand books for appraisal each day.

This family-run business — and the largest used bookstore in Canada — is not worried about e-readers and behemoth online booksellers.

“We have never seen a down month,” says Andrea Minter, the daughter of Diana and Ron DePol, the couple who opened Russell Books’ Fort Street location in 1991 under the guidance of Reginald Russell. Reginald, Andrea’s grandfather, launched the first Russell Books in Montreal in 1961. Andrea now runs the Fort Street and View Street stores with her husband, Jordan. Andrea’s brother, Chad DePol, is a partner.

Under Andrea and Jordan’s management, the business’s main challenge has been keeping up with demand. The business expanded in 2005 and again in 2013, growing in size from 1,000 square feet to 16,000 square feet.

But some things never change,  including the vast variety of books and their low prices. And for the Minters, the key is to provide customers with a great experience — and that isn’t something you can get shopping for a book online.

“I think interested customers, great service and the fact we’ve been around so long is a formula that every business hopes for,” says Andrea. “Things are changing, but we hope to be able to keep up with the new trends and continue the family legacy.”

Russell Books By the Numbers

Ratio of New to Used Books

Number of Russell Books Staff

Number of Russell Books Locations

Years Victoria’s Russell Books Has Been Open

Generations in the Russell Books Family Business

Andrea and Jordan Minter with Jasper, their youngest child, in Russell Books’ Fort Street location. PHOTO: JEFFREY BOSDET.

 This article is from the December 2017/January 2018 issue.