Books for free

Tucked in among an array of artists’ studios at 191 Lyman St., in the heart of Asheville’s River District, the newly opened Asheville Book Exchange will let anyone get books for free.

Turn a page: Ryan Clark (left), with Asheville Book Exchange co-founder Aleksey Zolotaryov, holds a sign summing up the exchange’s policies. Photo By Jonathan Welch

Yes, you read that right.

“All the books are free, and we welcome donations,” co-founder Ryan Clark explains. “People can also chill out or just relax while they read.”

The space features couches and chairs by the bookshelves and a yurt in the middle of the room.

Exchange co-founder Aleksey Zolotaryov says the project was inspired by a similar one in Baltimore, where he used to live.

“You had an exchange like this with all kinds of books, but that was like a warehouse, with just shelf after shelf,” he says. “We want this to be more of a place where people could come, chat, kind of a little community.”

Soon, he notes, they hope to have the book exchange set up as a nonprofit, so donors can get a tax write-off. And in the future, there may be more than just books to exchange.

“We hope to play movies, and we’ve got 8 [gigabytes] of books in digital format,” says Zolotaryov. “We’d like to do the same thing with music: maybe get a computer set up and people can come in here and download, or bring their music in.”

To cover its overhead, the exchange hopes to sell some of the books it receives via “For a while, I expect it to be about 1 percent that we can really sell,” he says, though the eventual goal might be up to 5 percent.

Right now, says Clark, they usually get about one donor a day.

For more information about the Asheville Book Exchange, call (404) 933-9173, or e-mail


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