When I visit my family in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I always stop at the Whistlestop Bookshop. It has three things I love: books, a bookstore cat and Out of Print T-shirts. I could hardly contain myself when I ran into account manager Amanda Barstow — who started at Out of Print as the first employee eight years ago — at Jackson Galaxy’s Cat Camp, and we talked.
Out of Print was founded in 2010 by lifelong friends Todd and Jeff. “During a time when many were predicting the demise of the physical book and the rise of e-books and audio books, Todd Lawton and Jeff LeBlanc wondered what would happen to all the iconic artwork they associated with their favorite stories and thought of a really fun way to preserve it,” Amanda says. “They decided to create a literary apparel company that would license first edition book covers and create wearable art for readers of all ages.”
Eight years later, Out of Print is now a division of Penguin Randomhouse and has become a literary lifestyle brand with customers in more than 90 countries and a presence in independent bookshops, boutiques and college stores globally.
“I work with independent booksellers all over the world and started to notice that there were a good number of them that had resident cats on staff,” Amanda says. “As a self-described cat lady, I was intrigued by their origin stories and embarked on a project to gather their stories and share them with other lovers of books and cats. Instagram felt like the right platform and thus @bookstorecats was born!”
Amanda grew up with rescue cats. “As an adult, I rescued my first cat, Roscoe, after living in Brooklyn for a few years, and my boyfriend and I have been TNRing a few colonies and fostering kittens since January. I also volunteer at the only nonprofit cat cafe in NYC, The Brooklyn Cat Cafe.”
Amanda uses her platform @bookstorecats cats to “encourage people to shop at independent bookstores, while also educating my followers about the importance of spaying/neutering our pets and community cats.” She hopes to open her own Bookstore Cat Cafe someday.
“There are a few bookstores I know of that partner with their local shelters or rescue organizations and have multiple cats on site available for adoption. I love this model, and it would be great if more stores were able to provide cage-free spaces for adoptable cats. I also hope to create an interactive Bookstore Cats Road Map and hopefully embark on my own Bookstore Cats Tour of the U.S.!”
As for Out of Print, “The majority of Out of Print employees are cat people with pet cats at home,” she says. “There seems to be a correlation between loving to read and loving cats, perhaps because there is nothing better than curling up with a good book, while a cat is curled up in your lap.”
Out of Print has donated more than 3 million books through charity partner Books for Africa and has helped build libraries, supply books and supplies to schools and classrooms, send books to incarcerated youth, and promote literacy and writing skills through programs like First Book and 826.
You can follow Out of Print on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram plus its website outofprint.com. Follow @bookstorecats on Instagram and Facebook. Bookstore Cats tees, totes, ceramic mugs and enamel pins are available at outofprint.com.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Catster magazine delivered straight to you!