The History Behind the Mystery: Kepler’s

Kepler's

Samantha Henze
October 21, 2012

No one seems to fully understand the reasoning behind the closure and reopening of Kepler’s bookstore, located in Menlo Park. After closing for the summer, the bookstore was back in business on October 16th, as a new legal entity and with many modern improvements.

Roy Kepler originally founded the bookstore to support his family during World War II, which he refused to participate in as an anti-violence supporter. His son, Clark Kepler, took over the store in 1980, and after 31 years, handed the store over to Praveen Madan and Christin Evans, who were both experienced in the bookstore business and familiar with Kepler’s.

Upon assuming the role of owners at Kepler’s, Madan and Evans became aware of the economic hardships that bookstores encounter in the digital age. “Kepler’s was struggling financially,” Evans reported.

In order to begin to deal with this challenging competitor, Madan and Evans decided to close the store over the summer when Kepler retired.  They wanted to use the time to layout their plan to make the bookstore a sustainable business.

The solution to this, they believed, was to “turn part of its operations, including the events program, into a non-profit,” said Evans.

Over the summer, they worked to construct the new legal description for the store, and “we also conducted a community workshop,” Evans added, “to talk about what should stay the same and what needs to change.” Those changes included new computer systems, new books, new staff, and a new store layout.

The two are also striving to replicate the mindset of the original founder, Roy Kepler, in the new store.

“Kepler wouldn’t be shy about stocking books that other bookstores didn’t carry at the time,” Evans explained, “so we are channeling the bookstore’s radical and countercultural past and making it current for today.”

However, along with the new “Kepler’s Digital Labs,” and electronic revival, the store still holds many printed books. The owners continue to retain their primary goal of “creating a space to discover new books,” as Evans put it.

“In the end, that’s what its all about, really great books and the people who write and read them,” Evans concluded.

For those of you who love to find new literature or are looking for a friendly environment to hang out in, stop by Kepler’s to enjoy the new improvements with the same warm bookstore feeling.

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Comments

10 Responses to “The History Behind the Mystery: Kepler’s”

  1. jpfau on October 22nd, 2012 2:42 pm

    I’m really relieved to see Keplers solve its financial issues after Borders had to close down in Palo Alto. Menlo Park 파이팅!

  2. shoover on October 22nd, 2012 3:02 pm

    Ah, finally the mystery solved! I just hope the new changes will be able to keep up with new technology. Paper books are a dying art form thanks to the kindle and similar electronic devices, and I think going to a bookstore has a personal quality that online stores cannot provide.

  3. Vira L. on October 23rd, 2012 4:49 pm

    I think it’s really unfortunate that paper books are dying out. I personally prefer to read actual books and have never read anything with an electronic book device like the kindle. Not to say those gizmos are bad, but there is something about holding the book in your hand and being able to annotate that makes me feel really disappointed that companies like Borders that went out of business and Keplers that felt the need to remodel to be involve more electronic books. However, this was very informative and well written; good job!

    josephrabinovitsj Reply:

    I agree. People should respect the value of literature by respecting the tradition of paper-bound books. It is disappointing that Kepler’s had to change their business to cater to those who do not respect the tradition and aesthetic of reading a paper-bound book.

    amacfarlane Reply:

    I would wholeheartedly agree with both of you. While I like looking at Kindles (their screens are quite fascinating), I truly value the physical connection to a book, the ability to ruffle the pages and watch it wear and scratch as it gets read and reread. Also, where one puts one’s books is important: on a bedside table, on top of a piano, under a chair, slipped carefully at the back of a shelf, each book has its own identity and its own place. When all are packed as files on a e-reader, that identity is lost. Thus while I recognize and support efforts to reduce paper use, I don’t think I will ever believe that paper-bound books may be replaced. I hope that Kepler’s will be able to adapt to changing times and economic hardship, as I have been going since I was a tiny kid, and it is the atmosphere of a bookstore that can mean as much as the books on the shelves.

  4. Tyler Finn on October 23rd, 2012 7:34 pm

    It is wonderful to hear that Kepler’s is doing well. I have always enjoyed buying my books from them, simultaneously getting a great read and supporting a local business and Menlo Park institution.

  5. alai on October 23rd, 2012 7:55 pm

    It’s great that Kepler’s is back and even better! I’ll have to remember to stop by soon.

  6. rgordan on October 25th, 2012 2:17 pm

    The economics for small, independent bookstores like Kepler’s are sadly not that great. But I’m interested to see what these “Digital Labs” are.

  7. egrose on October 25th, 2012 7:10 pm

    I’ve always been curious as to why Kepler’s has closed and reopened, and am so glad that they have continued to stay in business in this age of technology. Great article!

  8. Lynnette Menchu on October 29th, 2012 5:49 pm

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