By MATTHEW MEYER | Reporter
“It’s time to put books on the endangered species list,” Tony Jacobs told the Palisadian-Post, seated on a bench outside the building where his beloved shop, Sideshow Books, once stood.
Last time Jacobs, a Palisadian of the last five years, caught up with the Post, it was for a tour of Sideshow’s wonders.
The eclectic space was lovingly stocked with rare and unusual varieties of literature and art, with shelves packed from wall-to-wall.
Today, the shelves—and the treasures they held—no longer stand.
But unlike the myriad of other bookstore closures playing out across Los Angeles (Pacific Palisades’ own Village Books is still missed), Sideshow’s demise is not another sign of fiscal realities and changing trends.
Quite the contrary, it’s the result of a bold swing in the opposite direction.
Jacobs is doubling down on books, opening up a space this month that’s nearly four times the size of Sideshow, and transitioning to a nonprofit model with a simple mission statement: “Preserve and Protect Book Culture.”
It’s a culture truly embattled: The Palisadian said his nonprofit decision was in large part spurned by a recent spate of “book rescues” he’s performed—“adopting” large book collections from estates that were otherwise on their way to the recycling bin.
“If I didn’t pick these books up, they were going to be thrown away,” Jacobs told the Post.
And that doesn’t just mean losing a single copy: “The books themselves will disappear,” he explained. “There’s a die-off.”
In his recent “rescues” alone, Jacobs found multiple unique editions of literature that might not exist anywhere else. They were inches from permanent destruction.
That’s a trend Jacobs fears will continue, not just with obscure works, but ultimately even with beloved classics. Without an effective “book lobby,” “nobody speaks for the books,” he told the Post.
So Jacobs wants to use his new space, tucked away in the Pico-Robertson area, to re-kindle LA’s connection with the, “inner-power, the inner-attractiveness” of these literary treasures.
That means, of course, stocking a main bookstore area with some of the charm and oddities once found at Sideshow.
But Jacobs will also focus on community outreach, hosting educational programs ranging from elementary school field trips to book-making workshops and fellowships for middle and high school students that allow them to study some of his rarest wares.
Jacobs also wants to host an early-childhood storytime hour that allows parents and their child to take the book home with them. He believes getting books into the hands of children at an early age is crucial to preserving a piece of the human experience that’s slowly dying away.
“It’s too important a part of the culture to let its survival be determined by market trends,” Jacobs said of books and the stores that house them.
Beyond connecting people with literature, the Palisadian believes bookshops are a safe space for dialogue, free expression and reflection, much like public gardens or museums.
So as stores whither away around him, Jacobs has determined to adopt a model more similar to those other public institutions.
He’s still selling books online, and once the store opens, any in-house sales will also help fund the venture.
But during the financially challenging transition to a new space and model, he’s also raised funds with an ongoing GoFundMe effort titled “Help Save Book Culture.”
Palisadian neighbors, no doubt spurred by memories of beloved Village Books, are already pitching in.
Jacobs hopes his new space, set to open by the end of July, will become a similarly cherished community asset—an enduring hub for books and the people that want to preserve them.
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