Malvern Books | A space for literature lovers finds its niche in the digital age

A pirate hangs from a rope to greet customers from the front window of Malvern Books.

A pirate hangs from a rope to greet customers from the front window of Malvern Books.

Image description
Malvern Books
Image description
Malvern Books
Native Austinite Joe Bratcher moved back to Austin from New York in 2013. At that time, Borders had already closed all its stores around the country. E-readers and online sales, Bratcher recalled, were the wave of the future—yet Bratcher chose to open a bookstore.

Bratcher’s vision for his store, Malvern Books, was to provide a slice of the past for readers who appreciated poetry and fiction, those who missed the experience of perusing a bookshelf to discover a new author.

As it turned out, independent stores like Malvern Books never did become relics of a bygone age. Five years later, the store has become a destination for poets, writers and reading groups.

“There are people who want to search for books and look at them themselves, and we give them that opportunity,” Bratcher said.

The name of Malvern Books is based on the 14th-century poem “The Vision of Piers Plowman” by William Langland, which is set in the Malvern Hills of England.

True to its namesake, the store specializes in poetry and fiction, especially from small, independent publishers. Bratcher initially curated the collection from publishers he knew. He has a background in the business through his small press, Host Publications, which has been in operation since the 1980s. Host Publications still publishes books, although Bratcher has scaled down since 2013.

Bratcher says he now relies on staff, including store manager Becky Garcia, to build inventory. Signs around the store help customers find staff recommendations and highlight favorite titles.

Bratcher knew when he opened Malvern Books that events would be crucial as a way to attract customers and provide the community with a space to express their love of books with others.

“Poetry groups were getting shoved into the corners at Starbucks,” he said.

The store hosts multiple events each month, from poetry clubs to author readings to events in partnership with literature programs at nearby universities. The groups create a lively and vibrant atmosphere in the store—one that is not borne as a relic of a time gone as Bratcher may have anticipated but one that is very much a part of the present.
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