Bookstore Interview – Christine Reed of Basically Books

Photo provided by Christine Reed


Bookstores are magical places: shops where you walk in and are immediately presented with thousands of portals to other worlds. But we also hear a lot about the difficulty of maintaining an independent bookstore nowadays, with quickly changing technology and ease of online ordering. Despite that, a great number of independent bookstores are thriving. I had the chance to talk to the owner of one of those bookstores, Christine Reed of Basically Books in Hilo, Hawaii, which I’m excited to feature in today’s blog.


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Basically Books has been serving its community for over 30 years. The bookstore specializes in books about Hawaii, and features a variety of genres including mythology, natural history, marine science, and children’s books. In addition, you can find maps of Hawaii, Hawaiian music, gifts, and hard-to-find out-of-print Hawaiiana titles at the store. The bookstore has been featured in Hawaiian Airlines, Shelf Awareness, and more. You can find all the ways you can connect with Christine and Basically Books below.


1. How did you first get into the bookstore business?

David and Christine Reed are the owners of a small publishing and printing company, Petroglyph Press, that was started by David’s parents in 1962 in downtown Hilo Hawaii. Their focus is publishing books about Hawaii. David took over management of the company in 1974 and was joined in the business by his wife, Christine when they married in 1976. In 1985 a new business was launched in a different location. Basically Books began in a 500 sq. ft. space on Keawe Street. In 1990 the store moved to a larger, 960 sq ft. storefront on Waianuenue Ave, two blocks away. The publishing and printing businesses and the bookstore moved together into a 2,800 sq ft. storefront on Kamehameha Ave. facing Hilo Bay in 1997 and remained there for 20 years. In July of 2017 the businesses relocated 1.5 miles away on Kamehameha Ave. in a bright and spacious modern building with a large parking lot and a covered patio with chairs and tables. The specialty of Basically Books is Hawaii themed books, maps and gifts with a strong emphasis on children’s books and toys. Petroglyph Press books are made entirely in house in Hilo. David handles pre-press design and production, including printing and binding. Christine handles editing and marketing. The businesses continue to share a storefront and the press occupies a pressroom at the same location where the business was founded 55 years ago.


2. What have you found most challenging about the bookstore business?

Changing times and economics have impacted bookstores in a big way. The way people acquire and consume reading materials has changed dramatically in the years Basically Books has been in business. A strong focus on our specialty area, excellent customer service, special events and connecting to the community have been the methods we use to prosper and survive in the time of Amazon and big box stores.


3. What is something that surprised you about the bookstore business?

The strong personal connections that come from sharing ideas and information are part of the joys of bookselling. Feeling a part of the greater community and hearing the appreciation people have for being able to touch, open and hold books in the store is rewarding. In particular in Hawaii, the shared experience of diverse people and the strong interest in the culture and history of Hawaii has created a rich stew of literature that appeals to visitors and locals.


4. What makes Basically Books stand out?

Our store is “the bookstore” in town because we are the only “new books” bookstore. The others carry used books and we have no big box book stores since the closing of Borders. The focus on Hawaii has helped us weather the coming and going of Borders and has positioned us as unique in the state of Hawaii. We enjoy a stellar reputation and are known throughout the state as an important resource. We have long been known at The Map Shop and also carry one of the state’s largest selections of Hawaiian music CDs. We also carry a lot of locally made products including bath and body, stationery, woodcrafts and jewelry.


5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you recommend people pick up?

This one is too hard. There are many books I love, especially about Hawaiian history. A favorite novel is The Last Aloha by Galen Quinn about the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. A new book I am currently reading is about the Hawaiian moon calendar and phases called Ano Lani, Ano Honua. Children’s books: Goodnight Hawaiian Moon. and Too Many Mangoes. Petroglyph Press bestsellers are A Concise History of the Hawaiian Islands and Pele and Hiiaka, A Tale of Two Sisters.



Here are the ways you can connect with Christine and Basically Books!

Visit their site.

Follow them on their Facebook page.

Follow them on Twitter.

Follow them on Instagram.

Subscribe to their YouTube page.

Last but not least, visit them in person!

Basically Books
1672 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo, HI 96720
Phone: (808) 961-0144; Email:


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