How Womb House Became the Internet’s Favorite ‘Women-Driven’ Bookstore

From Publishers Weekly:

When Jessica Ferri launched her online bookstore, Womb House Books, in August 2021, her expectations were modest, if not nonexistent. Having just published her second book, Ferri, an author and book critic for the Los Angeles Times, had extra time on her hands and was unsure how she should use it.

She had always dreamed of owning a bookstore—“since I was a little girl,” she said—but was daunted by the idea of opening a brick-and-mortar operation. And with the pandemic still raging, compounded with Ferri’s recent cross-country relocation from Brooklyn to Berkeley, Calif., the timing felt wrong.

Then she discovered a pair of feminist bookstores—Toronto–based Bellwood Books and London–based the Second Shelf—which modeled precisely the kind of store Ferri could envision herself running: one primarily operated online and specializing in rare books by women.

“That was a big influence,” said Ferri of Bellwood, owned by Julie Malian, and Second Shelf, owned by A.N. Devers. With these blueprints in hand, Ferri made her first foray into bookselling with the “women-driven” Womb House Books.

Womb House focuses on books by and about women, as well as literature that Ferri calls “women-adjacent.” Its stock comes largely from local library book sales. She attributes her success at these sales to living in the “vibrant academic community” of Berkeley. “The sourcing is excellent here,” she said, because donations tend to come from professors, artists, and other “literarily-inclined, highly-cultured people.” She also frequents library sales all over Northern California and occasionally out of state, as well as estate sales. She estimates that she purchases between 200 and 400 books per sale.

Ferri’s buying practice is guided by her own unique but hard-to-pin-down sensibility; to paraphrase that most famous of Supreme Court opinions, Ferri simply knows a Womb House book when she sees it. As of this writing, the shop has made 3,743 sales and has 270 books on sale, including first edition of books by Isabel Allende, Maya Angelou, Marguerite Duras, Louise Erdrich, Jamaica Kincaid, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdoch, and Ntozake Shange.

Ferri posts three to five new listings on Instagram, Twitter, and Etsy each day at 6pm PST. There’s a pleasing aesthetic consistency across the listings, with each book positioned symmetrically on an ornately patterned rug. She chose to sell through Etsy, she said, for its user-friendliness and because it streamlines the process of listing and shipping.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

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