With revenues down, New England Mobile Book Fair moving out of longtime home

Tom Lyons, owner of New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, talks to a customer in 2013.
Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/file
Tom Lyons, owner of New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, talks to a customer in 2013.

New England Mobile Book Fair is a special place, a vast repository of volumes, more than a million in all.

But the book business being what it is in the age of — i.e., not very good — time has come for New England Mobile Book Fair to make a change, and fast. Owner Tom Lyons, who bought the much-loved literary landmark in Newton Highlands five years ago, says he’s looking to move out of the sprawling space on Needham Street as soon as possible — the lease is up at the end of the month — and into something significantly smaller.

Lyons told us he’s looking to radically downsize the store, moving inventory out of the current 32,000-square-foot space and into a space a fraction that size, perhaps 4,000 square feet.


“Revenues have been dropping year after year, and we’ve got to do something,” said Lyons, who had 36 employees when he bought the place and has 22 now. “With one or two exceptions, large independent bookstores just can’t exist anymore.”

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Lyons, who has so far looked at spaces in Waltham, West Roxbury, Canton, and Sharon, said his collection will, necessarily, be whittled down wherever he ends up. He said he’ll carry even more children’s books, which now account for about 50 percent of his inventory, as well as a selection of mysteries, fiction, history, and cookbooks. But he’ll shed some of the other stuff — business, humor, sports, religion, and self-help — that doesn’t sell anymore.

“I either close up shop and figure out how to pay off the vendors, or keep it going in a smaller space,” said Lyons.