Episode 25: Lori Carroll on Owning a Used Bookstore in Portland

Lori Carroll on owning, running, and loving a used bookstore in Portland.

In this episode, we talk to Lori Carroll, owner of Jan’s, an indie used bookstore outside of Portland, Oregon. She’s a lifelong lover of romance books who majored in women’s studies—and she wants you to know that being a feminist and loving bodice rippers are NOT mutually exclusive! Once that’s settled, she shares the value of making bookstores inclusive, community-oriented places with a delicious combination of book clubs, coffee, and almost constant events! Lori is also a rare jewel in the book trade, a book lover AND an extrovert. Honestly? That makes her the prime personality to sell books (sorry Bernard Black).

Bernard Black shoos people out of his used bookstore

Lori Carroll is the owner of Jan’s, a used/new bookstore in Downtown Beaverton. After graduating from college in 2003, she moved to Portland where she discovered a vast and wondrous community of romance readers. In 2018, she was ready for a change from her current job, and her friend, the owner of her favorite used bookstore (then called Jan’s Paperbacks), approached her with the opportunity to buy the store. She figured it couldn’t hurt and went for it. Now she spends her days at the sipping coffee at the store while reading, talking to readers, booking as many events as possible, and building a community in the Downtown Beaverton area.


Lori took her gateway book job in college and became enamored of romance novels.


And this is the story of how Emily officially met Jan…no wait…Lori, not Jan. Well, Jan #3.


Lori didn’t start reading until she was a senior in high school and read her first bodice ripper. Then the obsession began. While maybe the genre has become more sex-positive and empowering, old school romance did not quite mix with going to school for women’s studies. Somehow, though, Lori’s held out for both the genre and feminism at the same time!


Lori moves to Portland because…it had the cheapest apartments in the country?? Apparently in 2004. Once here, she started going to bookstores and, made friends with Marcy, the romance buyer for Borders.


We hear from the point of view of a long-time romance reader how the shift from traditionally published mass market paperbacks to mostly self-published ebooks. Lori applauds more opportunities for authors, saying, “However you want to get your book out there, honey, do it.” And if you’re into that, you might love episode 14 and/or episode 19.


Lori has no shame about her romance-reading habits. Neither should you. Feminism. She shares her current faves and not-faves.


Lori tells us about the number of book clubs she’s been a part of in her life—she’s currently in three. There are four at the store currently, and that’s not all that’s there. She tells us about how and why she’s made Jan’s into such an inclusive, community-oriented space. And it’s for the same reason that indie bookstores across the country are thriving and growing: niche, paper, and friendship.


Lori goes further into her community engagement strategy. It involves painting, knitting, small publishers, and indie authors. If you want to have an event there, call her up.


We talk about our Instagram habits and how social media can help people find each other irl! It can also bring baby goats in pajamas into your life. Look at this goat you guys!


How does a used bookseller curate inventory? It’s way less influenced by publishers than many of us in the field may be used to. It’s based on an audience who isn’t on Instagram. One that doesn’t listen to Terry Gross either.


Emily sulks about how much everyone hates her Irish accent. RATE AND REVIEW PLEASE.


Jan talks about the romance conferences she’s attended, some extant and some over.


We talk about how our attention spans are too short for D&D. Also, a mythical character called “The Husband” briefly emerges.


Emily gets possibly too judgy about the new trend in Reverse Harem. We really don’t want to kink shame. If romance fandom teaches you anything it’s that NOT EVERYTHING IS FOR EVERYONE.


Lori talks to us about how she started beta reading, what that means, and her approach.


How does a bookseller find new romance books to read herself? It involves cultivating a group of reading friends. Also, she gives her 30-second ebook, non-lecture. It involves something that a lot of print books don’t offer: accessibility. “I’m a fan of literally anything that gets somebody to read.”


Also, here’s the RIGHT way to recommend books to people who are not YOU. (Don’t tell people to read something just because you like it.) She gives us the day’s funniest “best book” recommendation story, and provides a bookseller’s guide to recommending books to other people.

Find Lori:

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