Welcome to Booktrader, Where Everybody Knows Your Name!


Remember the theme song from Cheers and the sentiment it conveyed? Sometimes you’d like to go where everybody knows your name…and their always glad you came? This jingle ran through my mind following an afternoon spent at Booktrader in Hamilton, NJ.

We’ve heard so much about the impact the dawn of eReaders has had on the larger bookstores with the closing of Borders and the current struggles of Barnes & Noble. Having just recently discovered this small secondhand bookstore that has been in operation since 1984, I was intrigued to learn more about what makes it special and how it has stayed afloat all these years. Joan Silvestro has owned the store for 10 years and by my count is the 5th owner. I found Joan’s journey to bookstore owner interesting in that she never set out to own a store or run a business. A self-proclaimed Jack of All Trades, Joan has a background in Medical Technology and has worked in a variety of professions. She had been a long time customer of Booktrader throughout the years and its various locations until one day she was in the store while the owner at the time posted a sign in the window, “Business for Sale,” and so began her journey born from a love of books.

My newest release, SECONDHAND ROMANCE, is set in a secondhand bookstore at the Jersey Shore, so I was very interested to learn how Joan’s approach to customer service and her business model differed or was similar to Annie’s.

It All Stems From a Love of Books

PDR_0422In many ways I (and Joan!) see Booktrader as a service to the community. The store is really floor to ceiling a book lover’s paradise. For the most part, Joan likes like to trade in books no more than 5 years old and she does not like to turn away any books customers bring to her store to “trade.” Trust me when I tell you, it really is a trade. Customers receive a credit on all books brought in which then goes towards half of all future purchases. Booktrader has a computer system that keeps track of your credit which never expires. In fact, the computer also keeps track of every book purchased to prevent customers from purchasing the same book twice. The store then allows you to TRADE the books you’ve previously purchased at Booktrader back which then gets added to your credit once again. When people ask why they can’t cover their entire purchase with store credit Joan jokes that she would love to, but electric, water, and phone companies will not accept books as payment!

It is no wonder on a Saturday afternoon, I witnessed a constant stream of customers. The majority were greeted in hugs and a warm welcome from Joan and her staff. Now that I know about this gem, I plan to become a frequent visitor myself.

What’s Going on at Booktrader?

In addition to updating the store with a computerized tracking system (customers previously had to save their receipts to prove their credit) Joan has introduced a book club which is not your typical book club. This club does not always read and discuss the same book, instead they share what they have been reading, what moves them about the story and why. Many members of the club have expanded their reading horizons has a result. The club is open to the public.

Booktrader also sponsors book signings. Many NJ local authors like Terri Brisban, CH Admirand, PA DePaul, Ruth A. Casie, Emma Kaye, Lita Harris, Nicole S. Patrick, among others have held book signings at the store. In fact on February 23rd Booktrader is hosting me along with fellow Violet Femme Maria K. Alexander. I’m really looking forward to this! Maria and I plan to share Italian cookies along with our love of reading and writing.

Can I Get New Books?

While most of the titles in the store are secondhand/traded books, Joan does offer a service in which she will purchase new releases for repeat customers, or for customers without internet capabilities. Again, it all goes back to providing a much needed service for a community.

What is the Cost Breakdown?

Blind date twoThe prices are more than reasonable and no doubt keep customers coming back. Used paperbacks are half the retail price, used hardcovers are $5 each, unless otherwise marked, all new (straight from the publisher) books are 20-30% off the retail price, Audiobooks are $5 for cassettes and $7.50 for CDs, bookmarks, cards, magnets and other gift items are discounted 20% off the retail price

Booktrader runs specials like hardcover children’s books are buy one, get one free, and my favorite, BLIND DATE WITH A BOOK: 5 wrapped up books for just $1 by genre. A great way to not judge books by their covers (or authors or titles). I took a chance on a BLIND DATE before leaving the store and was pleasantly surprised to find some great titles. In addition I added a Jennifer Cruise and a Jennifer Echols book to my stack.

What Moves and What Has Been Discovered?

As a writer I was interested to know what books move in and out of the store the most. The response was romance (yay!) with the emphasis on Historical, Paranormal and Erotic. They also have a lot of Science Fiction and YA fans.

In my new release, Secondhand Romance, Tony and Annie find a stack of 50 year old love letters inside a book that has been hollowed out which begins a search for the lost lovers. I was interested to know if Joan had found any unique items inside a secondhand book. In her experience people tend to use somewhat important documents as book marks like prescriptions, airline tickets and even a check for $5,000!!!!

The Impact of the eReader

So how HAS the dawn of the eReader impacted Booktrader? The manager of the store quoted Stephen Fry – “Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.” Those who shop and are devoted to Booktrader prefer to hold a book in their hands. As an author published digitally and in print, I can say, while I might sell more digital copies of my books, there is nothing like holding those babies in my hands. In fact the women of Booktrader have seen an increase in business since the decline of the economy which may have balanced out the impact of the eReaders. No wonder, the price of $5 for a hardcover book is quite a lure for people when the alternative is $17 – $26 dollars at another retailer.

In the end, the longevity and strength of Booktrader vs. the larger bookstores resides in the diversity in their Collection, customer service and the hands on approach to meeting every customer’s needs. As for me, I foresee becoming quite the regular at Booktrader!

What are some of your greatest shopping finds for books or otherwise? I’m wondering what other economical shopping experiences I’m missing out on?

You can learn more about Booktrader on the web here.

Leave a comment


  1. Thanks RoseAnn for a great write up! Looking forward to the signing!

  2. So interesting, RoseAnn! Booktrader sounds like a special place, and Joan sounds like she’s key to that. I’m thrilled to know about Booktrader and hope to visit you and Maria during your signing!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 11, 2014

      That would be great. It is a place I’m sure you would love!

  3. Sounds like a great store!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 11, 2014

      It is. You should check it out sometime, Roni. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. What a great find, RoseAnn! I have to admit, I haven’t heard of Booktrader and I am always looking for something to do with all my old books. Thanks for the recommendation!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 11, 2014

      You’re welcome. It’s a great find. I’ve already mentioned to my hubs if Joan is ever interested in selling….

  5. Thanks for sharing how Booktrader works. I have a good number of books to part with (both mine and my kid’s books). As much as I love my eReader, I love the smell and feel of books. I’m looking forward to our signing on the 23rd!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 11, 2014

      YES! We’re going to have a great time. Italian cookies for everyone! No SAUCE or GRAVY though! 🙂

  6. Great post, RoseAnn! I signed at Booktrader years ago along with Terri Brisbin. Joan is wonderful and welcoming to all romance authors. Enjoy your signing with Maria!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 11, 2014

      Thank You, Tina. There is quite a selection of Historical Romances on the shelves. I’m sure you’re are among them.

  7. Diana Quincy

     /  February 12, 2014

    What a great business concept and this store sounds like a place I’d love to visit and hang out in for a while.

    In answer to your question, my greatest book finds are almost always at the annual library book sale in my community. This year I donated about 70 books to the sale and I purchased about 15, so at least I was able to clear a few books off my cluttered bookshelves.

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 14, 2014

      Such a great practice and a wonderful way to meet others with the same love of books. In my time spent at Booktrader I had so many enjoyable book discussions. I felt very much at home.

  8. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  February 13, 2014

    It sounds like a great place! It’s great that she has a computerized system to keep track of balances, so customers don’t have to.

    We used to have a used bookseller in Keyport, that worked on roughly the same model. Two great books I found there were Civilisation by Kenneth Clark, and A History of the Theatre, (can’t remember who wrote it) which was my Theatre Lit textbook in college. It contained some great plays, like The Inspector General and Volpone.

    Our public library always has a used book shelf, where they offer donated books at greatly reduced rates, and the purchase price goes to the library. I’ve found a few gems there, too.

    I’m hoping to come out to your signing…weather permitting!


    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  February 14, 2014

      Seeing you at the signing would be fabulous. You will love booktrader! 🙂

  9. Wow, RoseAnn. This place looks amazing. So glad books stores like this are still operating. I don’t know what I’d do without my shelves and shelves and shelves of books aside from share them and reread them. Cheers, Michele


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