Family banking on books on tape

  • KATHY DAY / Herald Writer
  • Monday, December 4, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

By KATHY DAY

Herald Writer

MARYSVILLE — A few weeks ago, Marysville resident Mindy Taylor notified her employer about a secret she’d kept for nearly two years.

A family business, a long time in development, had finally taken shape.

Taylor quit her job as a regulatory affairs administrator for a medical device company in Bothell to manage the family venture, a new Redmond store called Earful of Books Inc. that sells and rents audiobooks.

The store is one of only 17 and the first in Washington franchised by the Austin, Texas, chain. It shares quarters with Blockbuster Video in Redmond’s Creekside Crossing.

Initially, the store has stocked 7,000 abridged and unabridged titles on cassette or compact disc. They’re also available online at www.earful.com. Customers traveling or on vacation can rent books and buy preposted envelopes for mailing back. Rent stops the day of the postmark.

And, she added, if you can’t find what you want, they have catalogs that raise the options by 58,000 titles.

Owning a business was an idea that her mother-in-law, Pat Taylor, first broached two years ago at Christmas, Mindy Taylor said last week. "She kept her options open and explored every business known to mankind."

When Pat Taylor settled on the idea of audiobooks, it "morphed into a family business," she added.

In a press release about the business, Pat Taylor cited traffic congestion as a reason for the popularity of audio books. "Audiobooks provide needed relief from the long commutes," she said.

And there are other uses, such as the time two students showed up on a Saturday looking for an Arthur Clarke title that they were supposed to have read by Monday.

"Some teachers don’t like that, but I think they’d be happy that at least the students are hearing the entire text," Mindy Taylor said.

Six Taylors are involved in the business: Mindy and her husband, Mike, a mechanical engineer; Pat and her husband, Ron, a chemical engineer; and sons Jeff, an electrical engineer; Ken, who’s in broadband technology; and Kris, a computer specialist.

They’re all invested in one way or the other. Pat, a former operating room nurse, quit her job too. But the others kept their "day jobs," she said and pitch in as needed, with Kris helping on the computer side and Dad coming in on the weekends.

There are no mother-in-law jokes here. Working with her mother-in-law has been fun, Mindy Taylor said. "We’re very much alike and get along great. Even if she wasn’t my mother-in-law, she’d be a friend."

Eventually, the Taylors want to add inexpensive cassette players and CD players, but to start, they’re focusing on the core business. They’re figuring that after a "book" has been rented two and a half times, it’s paid for itself.

They also hope to add other stores or perhaps kiosks or grocery store locations where people could order titles and get them the next day. Areas like Federal Way, Lynnwood and North Bend seem to have the kind of volume they need, Mindy Taylor said. "We’re also looking at the potential in the north end (of the county)."

Demand seems to exist to the north, she added, because "people are being pushed there by long commutes."

They’re also planning "book signings" with authors and will have hardbound books for those events.

Getting the store open had its challenges, Mindy Taylor said. It was supposed to open a year ago, but a number of technical and legal issues slowed the family down. That’s one reason she didn’t share her secret with anyone, she said.

A law student, she said she’s enjoying the flexibility of her schedule and the option to occasionally work at home. "Letting go of the security was the hardest part. That’s why I waited until the last minute. I didn’t want to jeopardize that."

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