As he was growing up, Eric Ackland read a lot of books about entrepreneurs and biographies of people who had found great success in their lives.
“I take inspiration from the things they managed to do in their lives,” Ackland, the owner of Amazing Books and Records, said.
After moving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh for love, Ackland bought an existing bookstore and renamed it, opening Amazing Books and Records in 2013 in Squirrel Hill.
He enjoys all genres of books but his favorite tends to be 19th-century literature.
“A few of my favorite books are The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy,” Ackland said.
Amazing Books and Records operates from two locations – the second is downtown – and Ackland is planning on expanding to reach the most people possible.
This bookstore, which was featured in the New York Times, offers thousands of used books ranging from classics to children’s books, and a large collection of records as well.
On a recent visit, first-time customer James Willson was impressed with the store’s inventory and Ackland’s frankness.
“This is my first time in the store, and from the 10 or so minutes I have been here I feel inspired to go buy a record player,” Willson said.
When Covid struck in 2020, Ackland struggled to find ways to maintain the business. To combat the tough times, Ackland came up with the idea of a Love Book Box.
“You tell us the subjects, genres, titles, and authors you like, and we will pick you a box of books for 30 bucks plus shipping and handling,” Ackland said.
That challenging year ultimately ended up being the best year since its opening for the business.
“I believe in God, and that all of our struggles come from God and they teach us and help us get better,” Ackland said.
Ackland has a positive mindset and is happy to talk to anyone who wants to talk about books. He is not much of a fan, though, of digital books.
“I like the concept of them being easily accessible, but I find them very hard to read,” Ackland said.
He recognizes the role that online stores play in book sales.
“Online retailers like Amazon have been a real boon for consumers. When I was growing up, if the book wasn’t in the local bookstore or library, you couldn’t find it.”
Ackland said in the past he used to feel as if he was competing against large chains like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but now he has changed his mindset.
“What we offer is unique, and even though there are other bookstores in town, I don’t see them with the competition,” Ackland said. “I would be happy to welcome new bookstores around me.”