Gary Hoover is an American businessperson who founded Bookstop, an American bookstore chain, and The Reference Press, which became Hoover's business information company.
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This is my second time doing an AMA, happy to be back!
I've been busy. I recently moved myself and my 57,000 books from an old catholic school outside Austin, Texas to an abandoned medical clinic in Flatonia, Texas. It is taking time to get the books into their place - I am always stopping to re-read them.
Shameless plug: My new book is published: Check out: The Learner's Guide to Reading and Learning - discounted until midnight, Wednesday July 12.
About me: I come from the great state of Indiana, and have studied under four Nobel Prize winning economists at the University of Chicago, which I love.
I also love entrepreneurship, business history, travel (49 states, and over 40 countries), geography, history, retailing, architecture, trains, airlines, industrial organization, data, and many other subjects – I live in a library of about 57,000 mostly-serious books! You really can ask me (just about) anything! At least I will give it a good old Texas try! Let’s talk!
What are the most important things we can do right now to create a better future?
Figure out something the world really needs, that would make the world better, and start a company or non-profit to move that idea along.
That is a LOT of books! How much would you estimate 57,000 books weights?! How many of the 33 rooms are they occupying?
I sleep in one room and the books effectively have all the other rooms. They weigh around 100,000 pounds. They'd be twice as tall as the tallest building in the world if you stacked them up. I had to invest about $15,000 in a stronger foundation. It took 8 people working a month to move them, about 2000 boxes. It was a real pain in the butt, I don't think I will ever move again! But I had great help and a nice big truck that ran almost daily for a month.
Welcome back. Arrived from twitter. Two questions.
What have you been working on?
What would you advise a young college student to do to succeed in the business world? MBA, start a business?
I always have lots of business ideas. The last several months have been absorbed by my massive move.....100,000 pounds of books, new stronger foundation. If you piled my books up they would be twice as tall as the tallest building in the world!
I want to write and blog more, and especially promote tourism around my new home and also get more people aware of the importance of business history.
as to advice, it really depends on you. what do you want to do with your life, as far as you can tell now? MBA is right for some people, startups right for others, corporate careers, free-lance life, etc etc.
but get a good liberal arts education, in school or on your own like most of the greats got theirs. my book is a big help in this regard --- self-education!
Thats great you have that many books. How many have you read? Cause if you read two a day it would take 78 years.
I have a system for "digesting" books, in which I do not speed-read but spend 15-30 minutes on each book, capturing the key ideas. The full method is explained in my new book.
I have "digested" probably 80% of the books I own.
I am a very slow reader, but am interested in learning and remembering as much as I can, as efficiently as I can.
I have a question. What are your thoughts on Fyodor Dostoyevsky?
I know he was a great writer, but it has been a long time since I read any of his works. I read almost no fiction, as I am an information junkie. I know one can learn from novels, but it takes more hours and patience than I have.
That may work for non fiction. But obviously not for fiction. Readers Digest condensed books are not same.
Yes, you are right. It does not work for every book. And my method is very, very different from a summary or condensed book. I never really liked them. I do like short fiction, though -- I have the patience to finish it!
If you could time travel, what year would you travel to and why?
man, that is a rough one. I love art deco architecture, so the 1930s New York or Chicago would be cool, but not so nice times otherwise. I guess I would have to go with the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, I would love to have seen it, or the 1930s fairs in New York and Chicago. they must have been amazing. the 1904 St. Louis fair would also do in a pinch. and in all those cases, I would have gone to train stations to see steam locomotives in action!
Hardback or Paperback books?
I just love books, even magazines and brochures ... anything printed with ink and paper! I am guessing the books are around 60% paperback and 40% hardcover because many of my favorite books are not published in hardcover form. I find paperbacks a bit more flexible and even durable, they travel better. But in used books hardcovers are (surprisingly) often less expensive than the paperback version!
What is your most cherished book in your collection?
now, that is just too tough! if I had to grab a few in a fire or something, I would probably grab the most valuable ones, because they would be much harder to replace. that includes 19th century books about railroads and some beautiful old architecture books. but as to the books I really must have at all times, the world almanac, a US road atlas, a world atlas, and Roget's New International Thesaurus would be at the top of the list. Then the Statistical Abstract of the US, the Almanac of American Politics, maybe Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet.
I do have some really unique books. I have the first annual report of General Motors from 1909, owned by the Chairman and President. I have a book written by the great merchant Gordon Selfridge, signed by him to a lady in England who may have been one of his lovers. They made a great tv series about him.
49 states... what's the missing one? Keep on doing your thing.
Alaska, but I will get there sooner or later! I know it is beautiful!
I'm curious about the impetus for Hoovers.com and how you bootstrapped the service from the data side?
How did you notice that there was a need for the type of information Hoovers could provide?
What motivated you to sell to D&B?
that's a lot! I loved reference books but there was nothing that covered the big companies that is so important in our lives, at least nothing that the average person could afford, nothing in bookstores -- there were big fat reference books that sold for thousands of dollars -- I collect old ones. so the idea of an accessible guide to big businesses was on my idea list about 15 years before I got around to it. I funded the first few hundred thousand dollars from my proceeds from the Bookstop sale, then brought in angels, then other investors and institutional and corporate investors. an old college buddy Patrick Spain urged us to move from $19.95 annual books to an online subscription service, and I turned the company over to him and he made it a great success. we got our info by subscribing to business magazines, having a clipping department,, having good writers, and buying one share in each company so we got the annual reports -- easier now, you can just download them! by the time of the sale to D&B, I had moved on to my next idea TravelFest, which was a big hit with customers but the airlines stopped paying commissions on ticket sales and we failed. I lost the money I made. when Hoovers sold for $117 million, my share was about $60,000 because I had sold off my position in order to try to save TravelFest.
that's the short version!
Only one question
Looking for a roommate?
Im tidy and know how to use a coaster. I'm already in Texas so can move quickly.
Excited to be your roomate. I'll started packing.
No, there's no room unless you can sleep on stacks of books! but I do occasionally give private tours of the liberry!