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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


The Team Behind Books Tell You Why

Back in old Europe, many years ago, Andrea and Joachim Koch started collecting books, well before this fascinating hobby took on a much more significant role in our lives. The house was always filled with books, for everyday reading as well as rare items brought back from travels in different countries. Coins were scraped together for those titles more expensive than reasonable to buy. Grandpa’s nineteenth century treasures built the initial collection and made us curious to find out more about a subject that’s been fascinating to the family and has now turned into our business.

After moving to Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1990s, the historic environment down South continued to foster our love for preserving the values and treasures of times gone by. It didn’t take long for Books Tell You Why to be conceived. Originally a Christmas present for ourselves, the once smallest bookstore in the world expanded rapidly. Books do tell you why, which is for us the raison d’être for reading and collecting them.

Meanwhile, our customers come from all fifty states, and every third book or so is being shipped internationally. Despite dealing with a very traditional product, our infrastructure is anything but. Computer systems accessing a multitude of websites, images for book listings, electronic ordering, tracking and shipping confirmation for all shipments, networking to allow secure access to staff working from remote locations, the highest level of secure payment processing, etc. Wim Wijnen juggles this marriage between traditional and high-tech, making sure that our books can be easily found online, and that our computers, databases, and systems keep supporting our growing operations.

Book buying needs to be easy. Andrea, being responsible for our Customer Operations, works us extremely hard to gain the confidence of our customers, who receive the book they want in the condition they expect at the time it was promised. Few things are more rewarding than to get a Saturday afternoon call and be able to fill an order for a scarce first edition that has to be on the other side of the country on Monday morning to be presented as a gift. Our favorite customer is the discerning collector—discerning in the books they seek as well as the level of service they expect and appreciate.

The next generation, Christopher and Katharina, are beginning to contribute significantly to the daily operations in the order processing and shipping departments, and they put the final touches on a great product on its way to a satisfied collector.

And yes, Joachim is still hunting those same books we were fascinated by as kids in a different language in a different part of the world, such as Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, Eloise, or From Russia with Love. These days, however, we are not satisfied with just having any copy. We chase first editions in exceptional condition, to satisfy the collector in us as well as our customers.

Focus areas of Books Tell You Why include many contemporary works, signed first editions, Easton Press and Franklin Library, biographies, authors such as Saul Bellow, Dan Brown, Jimmy Carter, Ian Fleming, Anne Rice, Philip Roth, John Steinbeck, J. R. R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, and other great authors who tell you why through their books.

Joachim Koch operates Books Tell You Why and can be contacted at




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