Oakland’s Book/Shop Creates a Written World with Literary Accessories

Temescal Alley’s Book/Shop offers books and literary-themed art, plus a selection of reading-related goods, including the signature Ballast Bookbag.

Certainly, Book/Shop, in Oakland’s Temescal Alley, stocks books, but its literary connoisseurship extends beyond reading material. Launched by proprietor Erik Heywood in 2013, Book/Shop showcases a highly curated selection of reading-related goods designed to quicken the heartbeat of all who love the printed page. Among its wares are home goods like tabletop bookshelves and bookends and personal accessories including a Shakespearean iPhone cover and a signature canvas and leather Ballast Bookbag designed specifically for toting tomes. There’s even a library-scented perfume that is a blend of an old novel, leather bindings and worn cloth (along with a hint of wood polish).

Book/Shop has existed online since late 2011, but once Heywood made it his full-time pursuit last year, he set up physical shop in Oakland. (A micro-version recently opened inside the C’H’C’M’ store in New York.) He shrugs off any concern about the viability of a book business in today’s tech-oriented world. “People who like books will always want books,” he explains. “It’s like the younger kids who are serious about music; they still buy vinyl because it’s the best. The real, good stuff always sticks around.” 

Temescal Alley’s Book/Shop offers books and literary-themed art, plus a selection of reading-related goods, including the signature Ballast Bookbag.

When Heywood relocated to Oakland from New York City in 2008, he was working in furniture and interior design but considering a new career path. Something involving books seemed like a natural fit: He had been blogging about the topic for several years, and was the creator of “Books In New York,” a visual catalog of stores, libraries and street vendors. Heywood’s westward move resulted in a new blog whose subject matter “expanded to living with books and loving them,” he says. 

At Book/Shop, Heywood carries about 80 editions at any given time and releases about five vintage titles exclusively through his online shop each week. “Every classic was at one point contemporary, but the cream rises to the top over time,” he says of his preference for older tomes and his edited inventory. Heywood’s own residence—“a ten-minute walk in the sunshine” from Book/Shop—includes seven walls that are lined in several thousand books, arranged by height. “They’re spread out in the house, so it’s not overwhelming,” he says. “Books can be incredibly satisfying and beautiful.”

A version of this article appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: The Written World.