Dawn Treader, Google Street View

What led you to select Dawn Treader as the location featured in your paper?

At first, I was admittedly a little wary about writing an ethnography. I knew I’d have to spend a lot of time collecting detailed information about a place of business and psychoanalyzing it’s patrons, which to my anxious brain sounded a lot like loitering and being nosey. I at least wanted to find a place where it wasn’t unusual to hang around for a long time, and since I had already been doing just that during my trips to Dawn Treader, it seemed like the natural choice.

What was your favorite thing about this space?

I like how full it is. I like the variety. Shopping there is strange because the chance of me finding exactly what I came in looking for is so small that I’m forced to expand my horizons a little bit each time. Sometimes you need a little push to leave your comfort zone, you know? Now I just grab whatever looks interesting.

Did anything about your observations surprise you?

I was surprised by the entire ‘rare and antiquarian’ book angle. A lot of prints in the Dawn Treader are extremely valuable and fragile. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought a lot about, but there are plenty of people who would shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for the first edition of a classic novel even though the later editions tell the same story. I don’t really understand it, but I’m also not a book dealer.

Did you end up purchasing any items from Dawn Treader during your observations?

Yes. In the essay I specifically mention The Once and Future King by T.H. White because it’s price at Barnes and Noble put it firmly on my wish list but I happened to stumble across it in Dawn Treader for less than $10 while I was wandering around, so of course I went ahead and bought it. I also picked up The Terror by Dan Simmons, another hardcover, because it was recommended to me by an employee.

Ethnography of Dawn Treader

Paper by Kayla Wiggins
Instructor: Krisztina Fehervary, Associate Professor of Anthropology


Moored snuggly between TK WU, a traditional Chinese restaurant, and NECTO, one of the most decorated nightclubs in Ann Arbor and Detroit alike, Dawn Treader has remained for the last 39 years - since 1979 - as a staple of the local book loving community and worldwide antiquarian interests. Despite its permanent docking on East Liberty Street, Dawn Treader carries a range of reading material representative of topics and interest that only the most accomplished of travelers could ever hope to accumulate -- a distinction that matters because Dawn Treader is a used bookstore and its stock is made up entirely of the collective tastes and interests of its patrons. The seven continents, seven seas, and seven wonders are all cataloged within, but Dawn Treader has yet to move an inch or even sway on its foundation. That’s the beauty of a used bookstore for those who come looking to expand their horizons or take a dive into the unknown. In fact, regulars to Dawn Treader typically come seeking to hone their skills in the art of the browse, a process that can take anywhere from ten minutes to the better half of two hours; their reward being, of course, a few really good finds. According to Gilmore, most of the books that go out the door are spontaneous buys. Books that customers might not have come in looking for or didn’t know they wanted until they picked it off of a shelf. In my observations I’ve seen many a browser come in, sometimes going straight past the front desk with nary a word spoken in greeting, only to be promptly swallowed up by the endless stacks around them. Primarily, what helps with the immersion is the over 70,000 titles that line the tall shelves spanning the inside of the store and form multitudes of short dunes on the floor. Dawn Treader is practically overflowing - not to mention the enticing racks of 50 cent books, 1-dollar books, and free books placed just outside the door, or the invisible backstock of titles somewhere in the belly of the store that a team member might access at the request of an imploring customer. It is precisely that fullness, that richness of content, that endears Dawn Treader to so many of its new customers and keeps the old ones coming back for more. This ethnography is an exploration of Dawn Treader as a business, cultural asset, and one-of-a-kind book buying experience. Through a detailed discussion of the atmosphere and ‘culture’ that it creates with its interior and the consumer base that appreciates it, I will attempt to reveal Dawn Treader’s local impact on Ann Arbor and the connotations it has for global consumer trends.


To get a better profile of the selection, think of any genre of book, as niche of interest or as uncommon of an opinion you can, and I guarantee you that it has a shelf (or a pile) somewhere in Dawn Treader. A couple of my favorite genres are stage magic, books on books, Michiganesia, and Ghosts. One thing that sets Dawn Treader apart from other bookstores in the area like Literati is that it has sacrificed the ease of selectivity for the freedom of selection. That’s a business model that’s obviously more of a possibility when you’ve been around for almost forty years like Bill Gillmore, the owner, but I suppose if Literati wanted more books on the shelves, they could get into the resell game, too. However, in the process, they’d risk stepping on Bill’s toes or worse: run out of room for their in-house coffee shop and themed menu. There isn’t room for such things in Dawn Treader, there isn’t time enough in a day, and most importantly their customers have never expected such a thing from them and never will. That kind of heavy-handed curation is the antithesis of Dawn Treader experience. Because the selection of books collected in Dawn Treader weren’t necessarily hand picked by Bill or the other employees in the store, it’s entirely up to the customer to make judgment calls on the books they pick up. Despite this condition, buyers regret is almost non-existent for two reasons: the resell option and the low prices. Dawn Treader avoids reselling the books they’re sold at full price. This means that most titles, whether or not you can find the same versions in other bookstores, are typically less than half of their retail price. For example, a hardcover copy of The Once and Future King by T. H. White – originally published in 1958 – is available at Barnes and Noble for $27, while an earlier print of the same text is sitting in a pile in Dawn Treader right now for $9.50. The catch is that you’d have to spot it there yourself. This distinction is especially valuable to those who prefer hardcovers to paperbacks and are familiar with how much more expensive they can be.

That being said, not everything you’ll find in Dawn Treader is meant to be a steal. Dealing in “rare and antiquarian books, maps and prints” is the other half of their business model and probably the most profitable. Towards the front of the store, nestled snugly in a square corner past the Law, Graphic Novel and assorted art shelves sit a section of locked, glass-doored shelves and displays where Dawn Treader keeps its most valuable cargo. To the untrained eye, it doesn’t look like much and I’m just about as untrained as you can get. However, I can attest to the fact that Bill got most of his selection through auction, trade, gifts, and the most obvious form of acquisition: buying. As you might suspect, the books earn their high value from being incredibly old, rare, signed, first editions, or some combination of the sort. The oldest and most valuable book in the store was printed in the 1500s and goes for $12500.


The Website

How do people find out about these rare and expensive finds? Well, that’s where the website comes in. To attempt to catalog Dawn Treader’s 70,000 title sales floor or even just it’s unseen storage supply would be comparable to Sisyphus endlessly carrying his boulder up a hill every day- exhaustive and thankless. However, some books do make it onto Dawn Treader’s online catalog. While those that do are typically the rarest, oldest, or oddest of the bunch it’s worth mentioning that everything available online is kept under lock and key in one of the glass cases or in that mysterious backstock of theirs. This is because when Dawn Treader has a book in stock it could very well be the only one they have. If the books available online were also sitting on the sales floor then in cases of lost, moved, or stolen books, the store would be out of a sale and have to face the consequences of an unfulfilled order. They can’t simply order more copies like a retailer would or have one shipped from a warehouse off-site.

The website itself doesn’t hint at this much. In fact, it doesn’t hint at much at all. The layout and design are very simple. No frills, no fuss. The homepage involves a nice big Dawn Treader Book Shop sign in blue, a brief description of the store, a small picture of the interior, their hours, and a hamburger style menu (which includes home, search, buy, sell, featured books, directions, and a link to the website for Classic Book Shop).
(Classic Book Shop is Dawn Treader’s sister location in Royal Oak, Michigan. It looks a lot like Dawn Treader on the inside in terms of the book overflow factor, but it never came up, so I’ll avoid referencing it further.)

Dawn Treader’s website is very symbolic of the in-store experience. It’s hands off. Unlike Literati’s website, any other Ann Arbor bookstore, or even the local public library, there isn’t a calendar full of this month’s in-house events, a subscription service to ponder, a login option, a merch store, or even a blog. None of those things exist. For this, some might claim that the website is outdated, but I think the modest nature of it matches the store’s aesthetics to a tee.

The Decorations

The interior overall is unpolished, dusty, and worn in a way that – to me at least – feels comfortable, homely even. I feel this way because I grew up in a home that was carpeted everywhere except the kitchen and the bathroom. Carpet signals to my brain that I should take my shoes off and get comfortable. Come to think of it, there are very few public spaces that involve carpet other than bookstores, libraries, and movie theaters – all places which strive for a relaxing or inviting atmosphere. Carpet is a good fit for any bookstore because it muffles sound, traps heat, and you can sit on it. A cold, hardwood floor would discourage the kind of impromptu test-reads I’ve seen people take in the isles of Dawn Treader. There are chairs and stools around to pop a squat on, but people sometimes just sit on the floor and flip through whatever they have in their hand rather than search one out. This suggests a kind of subconscious comfortability that isn’t common at other bookstores. Or at least, it’s something I’ve never seen anyone feel inclined to do in a Barnes and Noble.

Another aspect of the layout that may contribute to that sense of comfort, and familiarity in Dawn Treader is just how maze-like the stacks are. Not to say anyone’s house is a maze, but the organized clutter of it all makes the place feel lived in. The shelves, overflowing with books in every aisle, every corner, and every dead end, are all too tall for most visitors to reach the top of without a stepstool. Wandering through these giants, these pillars of ideas and information, you can’t help but feel as if you’ve been transported to a quieter, more introspective world. Dawn Treader allows you privacy as you browse.

It’s much easier to compare Dawn Treader to a library than another bookstore in Ann Arbor. Quietly, music flows from Spotify through the speaker system. The lighting is fluorescent but not glaringly so. The chairs are well worn and green. Everything is wood. It’s decorated overall yet has no cohesive theme. Bits of history, odds and ends from around the world, and miscellaneous oddities dot its interior. It’s exactly what you would expect from a maritime exploration vessel like Dawn Treader. There is a figurehead – usually found on the prow of the ship – hanging over a door just before the true crime section. She has two leis, a shell necklace, and the kind of metal you’d get from a high school science fair wrapped around her neck. There are unidentified tribal masks, maps, prints, paintings, and hand-painted ceramic tiles hanging from the walls and sides of bookshelves. A full-sized sarcophagus sits idly amongst the rest. It may or may not contain a mummy. In the science fiction section, a cutout of Picard is perpetually peeking out from behind a corner, spooking everyone who forgets he’s there. A model of the Millennium Falcon hangs from the skylight just below R2-D2 perched on the rafter. There are plenty of toys floating around the adjacent children’s section. Many are piled in a tub on the floor.

Other Things You Can Buy

Other things you can buy include maps, prints, posters, paintings, postcards, DVDs, audiobooks, journals, magazines, bumper stickers, bookmarks, and cards. The marbles are free. Branding in Dawn Treader is slim to none, so none of these things bare the bookstore’s name except a few Dawn Treader t-shirts that have been there ever since I can remember. (They’re the exact same t-shirts the employees wear, so a part of me believes that they’re just leftovers.) I suspect that there’s so little branding because any more would require ordering extra products specially made for the store. Dawn Treader is more of a vessel for things to pass through on their way from one home to another and less of a producer of goods. It’s like an antique shop in that sense.. or purgatory. However, at checkout, you do get your pick of a paper or plastic bag – each with the Dawn Treader logo on its sides – and a bookmark with some information about the store.

The Employees

The Dawn Treader maintains both full-time and part-time positions for staff, but in all of my visits, I’ve been met with the same five or six people. It doesn’t take too many to keep Dawn Treader afloat. At any given time on any given day, there is about one employee for every three people browsing. At the front of the store behind the checkout counter one employee – usually Mary --- spends the majority of their time cataloging the books that will end up for sale on the website. This can be a difficult job when it comes to books written in foreign and uncommon languages. When she isn’t handling the online sales aspect of the store, she’s also handling the in-person transactions with customers. This is a task that isn’t as cut and dry as it is in a retailer like Barnes and Noble or even Kohls – a retail clothing store I used to work at – where ‘cashier’ is an exclusive job that only those who were hired as cashiers get to do. In Dawn Treader, whoever has a free hand does the transaction. I suspect that this is because of a few things: the system is easy to learn, task delegation allows for fewer employees in the store at a time, and Bill trusts the people who work for him. At Kohls, they kept close track of everyone who had access to the money and when they had that access just in case anything went missing. You had to log in to even open the register. No such thing at the Dawn Treader. In fact, it has avoided many of the trappings that have come to be associated with a retail business. I’ve discussed the store already, but on the employee’s end, the corporate entity that defines a standard ‘look’ and ‘personality’ does not exist. There is no standard greeting. Many people end up lingering by the counter after checkout because of whatever conversation that may have been struck up, but the employees are only as talkative as the customer is. I think they recognize that no one gains anything from them being disingenuously perky or nosey. There isn’t anyone forcing them to say, “Can I help you find anything?” or “Did you find everything you were looking for?” and they don’t because…well, we all know how that goes. Similarly, there’s no uniform. Besides the obvious respectability rules, the Dawn Treader t-shirt isn’t strongly enforced, so most employees could be mistaken for another customer what with the way they rummage around looking at books, putting books on shelves and taking others off.

However, you can always spot Bill when he’s there – which is typically in the afternoons around 5pm on weekdays and 2pm on weekends. He’s white haired and always smartly dressed. Near the front of the store is a particularly old green chair surrounded by unpriced books. That’s where Bill will sit, gradually making his way through the stack as he prices them by hand with a pencil. He’s very fun to talk to and he’s as knowledgeable as you would expect from a bookstore owner who’s been in the game for 39 years. I have to admit that most of our conversations weren’t on topic or didn’t stay that way for long. I think that understanding Bill is the key to understanding why Dawn Treader is the way that it is. The store is, in many ways, a reflection of this one man, but hopefully from my description of Dawn Treader, maybe inverse can be accomplished.


The only one label I can comfortably use to define the entirety of Dawn Treader’s customer base without making too many assumptions or grossly over-generalizing, is ‘bibliophile’ -- people who love books and, according to Africa (one of the full-time employees), “appreciate beauty.” There is no easily identifiable type that frequents bookstores amongst the young and the old, the rich and the poor, those with degrees in liberal arts and those without. In comparison with other hobbies like piano, ballet, horseback riding, or golf, reading as a hobby is relatively low in cost and offers large returns in culturally defined social spheres. I think of it as an equalizing force because it requires little to no accumulated cultural capital to enjoy yet offers the same experience and expertise that would otherwise be unavailable to those without the social or economic capital necessary to function within the high society spaces that generate them. Despite the genre preferences that might better distinguish patrons of Dawn Treader, the main products, the books, are accessible to everyone. That being said, I do think it is necessary to shed some light on what makes Dawn Treader attractive to different consumer types based on the labels used to define other consumption habits. The PMC, the child of the PMC, the HCC, the LCC, and other less abstract distinctions like local, tourist, hipster, and collector. These labels are not mutually exclusive or even concrete, as every individual is likely to be an exception to the rule. The classifications are merely a way to organize observations made about the demographics of Dawn Treader’s customer base.


According to anthropologist Douglas Holt, Pierre Bourdieu’s theory on cultural capital and taste “argues that social life can be conceived as a multidimensional status game in which people draw on three different types of resources…to compete for status.” (Holt 1998, pg. 212) These are defined as economic capital – monetary wealth, social capital – upbringing, and cultural capital – career and education networks, where the latter two resources culminate in a person’s psyche to form a distinct habitus, which is embodied through taste. Furthermore, Holt argues that individuals with high cultural capital (HCC’s) have international tastes. Their parents occupied professional positions that made them cultural commodities and in turn, they face little to no economic difficulty. Because of this the HCC expects a certain degree of quality in all modes consumption and defines their tastes with a “playful” attitude removed from materiality. They appreciate things for the aesthetics rather than the utility. Alternatively, those with low cultural capital (LCC’s) are local and have local tastes, they’re from working class backgrounds, and have a high school level education at most. Their taste is defined as “functional or practical”. The LCC covets having an abundance of material goods and goods regarded by popular culture as luxurious, supposedly because their childhood was defined by material constraints. It is evident that the HCC and the LCC both frequent Dawn Treader although they may appreciate the experience for different reasons. Holt claims that “The HCCs are able to consume luxurious and scarce goods while at the same time negating connotations of waste, ostentation, and extravagance through tastes that assign value based on the ability of the good to facilitate a metaphysical experience.” (Holt 1998, pg.232) As a bookstore that revels in its own antiquity and leans whole-heartedly into the aesthetics of old-school book buying culture – or at least the abstract idea of it – Dawn Treader fulfills the HCC’s taste for a specific kind of metaphysical experience that negates connotations of waste and separates them from what would be considered mainstream or ‘capitalist’ consumption habits by offering books with a distinguished existence. For the HCC the appeal is doubtfully in the fact that the books are used – as in, not fresh off the press – rather, the appeal is in the idea of a book with a history. Most books in Dawn Treader have been an inalienable good at some point. They were the books of lifelong readers and populated their homes for decades before a big move forced them to sell, or children’s books with an owner who had no one to pass them down to. Some contain handwritten notes to family or lovers still scrawled on the inside cover. You can imagine the stories. The HCC would appreciate books that are unique because of their intrinsic value as well as their temporal value. It is a symbolic rarity, but still a factor in the act in the act of consumption for the HCC. Rare books being a large part of Dawn Treader’s business model, very high cultural capital individuals with large amounts of expendable income, collectors, also patronize the store. About the LCC, Holt claims that “In contrast, LCCs value abundance and luxury because these objects, with material and symbolic attributes far beyond what they understand as appropriate ‘use value’, signify a seldom-experienced distance from material goods.” (Holt 1998, pg.232) Dawn Treader is not meant to be a luxury experience, and I cannot claim that the LCC typically buys more books at a time than the HCC. The LCC, as any working-class individual with limited expendable income would, appreciates the affordability of the books in Dawn Treader matched with the incredibly large selection. This gives them the freedom to splurge in a safe environment, distant from any material and economic constraints they might experience in other avenues. They’re not looking at prices as much because it’s understood that they can afford almost everything on the menu. Small talk during checkout frequently begins with some iteration of “I can’t believe I’m buying this many books,” which typically betrays a feeling of awe and giddiness, but never any real shame. The privilege is difficult to imagine for the LCC bibliophile at any other bookstore in Ann Arbor or retailers like Barnes and Noble, where any three books could easily run them $45.

The PMC Parent and Their College Kids

The PMC and their offspring fit in best as abstract classifications for describing the Dawn Treader’s tourist sector. About the PMC, Rosenblatt says, “It consists of people whose elevated status depends on their education rather than on owning property, and whose work is often concerned with the management and reproduction of society and it’s members. Doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, teachers, nurses, social works, and middle-level managers in the business…”. (Rosenblatt 2013, pg.595) Because the majority of the parents who fly in from out of town fairly consistently in order to visit their collegiate children are members of that insecure middle class, cultural actors unable to directly pass class status down to their children, they identify more with the HCC. They have a lot of fondness for Ann Arbor because it offers the “cultural resources and demographic diversity” --- that a rural college town does not. (Holt 1998, pg.235) The entire downtown area is a PMC paradise, where one can find a plethora of quirky, area specific shopping, ethnic restaurants, and comfortably familiar mid-to-high price range retail on the same strip. The PMC feels comfortable knowing that everyone in the area is in or near their tax bracket. For them, Dawn Treader begins to function as a consumable piece of local history symbolic of Ann Arbor’s cultural relevance. It’s a stop on the clearly defined route that most tourists take through the Ann Arbor downtown area, which begins on State Street and ping pongs down the adjacent blocks until you get all the way to the end of the city. They stroll into Dawn Treader early in the day with their glaringly blue M-Den bags and coffee from the close by Starbucks or Espresso Royale. They’re the ones who have the most boisterous compliments and praise for Dawn Treader’s eccentricities -- which could just be a symptom of tourism – and the employees continuous take them with an air of grace, almost as if they’d never heard the lines before. The children of the PMC either like Dawn Treader or don’t. Their consumption habits as ‘hipster’ or simply a rejection of their parents buying habits don’t apply to this bookstore because it has no replica in their hometown. It is a singular entity devoid of any consumerist associations that the child of the PMC might have bad connotations of. There is no Kohls equivalent to Dawn Treader’s Sears. If anything, the uniqueness of Dawn Treader appeals to both the PMC and the hipster’s desire for “individuality” and consuming “anti-consumption” consumer goods.

This store doesn’t work well as a strict method of social distinction. Instead it acts as a place where different groups might commingle in indirectly by sharing the same space. Dawn Treader’s most loyal patrons, locals who frequent it, are those who can self-curate, have the patience to browse, and/or prefer the unique personality of this bookstore and the relationships they’ve developed with the people who work there. Some employees have worked at Dawn Treader longer than retailers like Literati and Borders have been around. The local could be anyone – HCC, LCC, PMC, or child of the PMC – but most importantly they’re bibliophiles, and that distinction is what connects every person who enjoys Dawn Treader.

That being said, this bookstore is not a catch all. There are people who might dislike it. There are reasons why regulars might seek out another bookstore for certain occasions. People who don’t like to read are an obvious demographic. They probably wouldn’t step foot in Dawn Treader, or any other bookstore for that matter. As a used bookstore, Dawn Treader isn’t reliable for anyone always looking for the latest releases. All of its products have had previous owners which could be a turn off for anyone who prefers their products new. For others, the way it practically overflows with literature might be overwhelming. Self-curating isn’t for everyone and there are some who would like to pick from a few options and be on their way.


As I described before, Dawn Treader’s branding is almost non-existent. I speculate that this is because they don’t deal in their own products but rather act as a vessel for the commodities that come into it. If the marketing trend that encourages small business owners to sell pens, notebooks, postcards, and magnets with their logo on them has emerged within the last 39 years, then it’s one that this store has completely ignored. Frankly, it would be out of character for them to begin pushing novelty, souvenir-like items all over the store. According to Douglas Holt the current role of branding in today’s neoliberal, globalized economy is more consequential that it had been in the last 20 years because “the rationalization of global supply chains has made it increasingly difficult for firms to garner a sustainable advantage in their product”, and “in the postmodern economy, trade in symbols and experiences has proved to be a vast and profitable arena for business”. To put it simply, the idea of ‘the brand’ has the potential to become a company’s most profitable commodity as an abstract idea with constructed social and societal connotations. Global and local businesses recognize the power of branding as a means of inserting themselves into the daily lives of their customers in new and distinct ways. This not only works from a profit standpoint, but it also does the work of defining exactly what their customer base looks, sounds, and acts like outside the realm of the store and even does some work of appropriating the products for the customer. However, for this to work, businesses have to rely on the intrinsic value that they can siphon from their customer base. Bookstores like Literati target a community’s supposed appreciation of the arts, literature, and culture. Dawn Treader profits from this association as well, but it doesn’t lose anything by resisting branding, brand regimentation, and marketing. It has long ago embedded itself within the community with a cultural significance closer to that of the Michigan theater than any branded space. “Advertising does not work by creating values and attitudes out of nothing, but by drawing upon and rechanneling concerns that the target audience (and the culture) already shares.” (Jhally 2002, pg.329) Ann Arbor, as a hub of “cultural resources and demographic diversity” as well as its status as a college town invested in intellectual pursuits, already values the same things that Dawn Treader would push for. In terms of appropriating the product for the customer, which is how a business “convert(s) commodities into possessions by endowing them with personal identity”, Dawn Treader doesn’t need to do much of that either. (Carrier 1990 pg.693) The products in the store aren’t given any supplemental social identity, so in the act of browsing Dawn Treader’s expansive selection, customers pick up any and everything that interests them. A book could be a part of a customer’s identity as soon as they spot it on the shelf. Since that customer is often the only one who will spend time with that book after they buy it, its value is inherently personal.


Dawn Treader began in a basement further up the street from its current location on East Liberty. It’s been around for almost forty years and has seen first-hand the birth and death of book retailers like Borders, who’s flagship location was also in downtown Ann Arbor. The online shopping industry, Amazon in particular, has been the biggest threat to Dawn Treader and its peers as book retailers. However, it’s easy to agree with those who claim that Amazon doesn’t directly compete within the same industrial sphere Dawn Treader — mostly because it’s still open and operating — but its globalizing business model has had an effect nonetheless. There was a time when Dawn Treader marketed its online collection through Abebooks, which was founded in 1995 as a marketplace for new, used, and out of print and rare books. “Abebooks had reseller agreements with eBay, Half.com, Barnes & Noble.com, BibliOZ.com and Amazon.com, allowing AbeBooks to market and sell booksellers' books through those channels”. This much was true until AbeBooks was bought out by Amazon on August 1st, 2008. From there, Amazon went on to drop five countries from the platform including Hungry, Poland, and Russia without much of an explanation. After this gross discrimination, over 600 booksellers pulled their inventory from Abebooks, which accounted for 4 million of its titles. Although Amazon folded pretty quickly after the protest and reinstated all selling rights, Dawn Treader has been selling from its own website ever since. If you know anything about booksellers in Ann Arbor, or booksellers in general, they’re some of the most gracious competitors you’ll find in today’s market. When a bookstore in Ann Arbor doesn’t have a title that their customer really needs, they’ll call one another just find it. The passion for these people isn’t in the profit, it’s in the books.


Dawn Treader breaks almost every rule you would use to define a successful business in the global marketplace. It rejects so many of the aspects that businesses need nowadays to solidify their brand and stay culturally relevant in the long term. I look at Literati, with its cutesy typewriter theme, branded merchandise, and club subscriptions, and it feels a world away. Like a time capsule, Dawn Treader has managed to bottle the best parts of a bygone way of life. It offers its customers a book buying experience outside of the commitments that other small businesses crave from them. In many ways, it is a return to something oldschool, and pure in its motivations. Dawn Treader buys and sells books, and in turn, it allows its customers to do the same. That’s all. A bookstore opening today couldn’t hope to accomplish that kind of cultural relevance in a market that’s not only competitive, but entirely oversaturated with goods. Bill has something incredibly rare in Dawn Treader, which is a business that has a personality, rather than just a slogan and a logo.