Paperback Dreams is the story of two landmark independent bookstores and their struggle to survive. The film follows Andy Ross, owner of Cody’s Books, and Clark Kepler, owner of Kepler’s Books, over the course of two tumultuous years in the book business.
In the last decade, competition from big chains and the internet has put booksellers in a vice. Half the independent bookstores in America closed in the 1990s. But in the 1960s, bookstores like Cody’s and Kepler’s redefined intellectual life, democratized literature, and helped launch a counterculture. Publishers were putting the classics into cheap paperback editions for the first time. Literature—once the purview of academics and elites—was suddenly affordable for the masses. Most established booksellers dismissed the new editions as drugstore pulp. Their indifference allowed a new kind of store to emerge, and it opened the door to a new breed of bookseller.