Since 1973, Spartacus Books is a non-profit, volunteer and collectively run bookstore and resource centre in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and only one of its kind in the city. Spartacus sells new and used books, zines, comics, magazines, CDs, videos, T-shirts, patches, pins, posters and cards. Spartacus Books is one of the longest running collectively run bookstores in North America.
The building where it had long been located (311 West Hastings Street) completely burned down on April 25, 2004. The store once again opened for business on February 12, 2006 at 319 West Hastings Street, immediately adjacent to the old location. However, due to the increasing cost of real estate in Vancouver, the store was forced to move again to 684 East Hastings Street. In 2014 it moved out of the Downtown Eastside to 3378 Findlay St.
Spartacus Books was originally started at Simon Fraser University by Roger Perkins, who worked at the SFU bookstore. It was initially called the Spartacus Socialist Education Society, however over the years it has become a meeting place for people of widely divergent political views. However, they all agreed that they needed to get books and other educational materials that either were extremely difficult or simply impossible to get through any other means.
The bookstore originally was in a space shared by a pool-hall run by the American Exiles Association, a group of American military deserters and war resisters. Later, it moved to 311 West Hastings Street, where it operated for 30 years until the fire in 2004.
The fire started on April 25, 2004 at 6:00 AM in a back dumpster behind the store. There has been an investigation into the fire, however the cause of the fire wasn't certain. By the time the fire was put out, the entire building had gone up in flames and Spartacus Books had lost not only all of its inventory, but a lot of the old materials detailing the history of the store. Spartacus Books has a large collective, and the collective operates by writing in a store journal. The store journal is an analog version of a wiki. Each volunteer would write down important information that happened on their volunteer shift. Over the period of time the original store was open, the journals would be the main piece of history as to what happened at the store. This was lost as well.
Fundraising for Spartacus Books came in the way of numerous donations, and the efforts of the collective over the years between April 2004 and November 2005. They managed to get enough money, used books and other donated items from the now-shut down Granville Book Company, which allowed the store to get space, and shelving. In November 2005, the new space opened its doors to the public for a book release. However, the book store was far from being open. For example, there was no heat or electricity. However, by February 2006, Spartacus was back, and had a strong volunteer list of over 60 people in the collective.
In late 2012, new landlords bought the building that Spartacus Books is in. Soon after, the new landlords terminated Spartacus' lease and told Spartacus to vacate the premises by July 31, 2013. This eviction notice was cancelled following media attention to Spartacus's 'renoviction'.
The landlord announced that he would not be renewing the lease, which ran through to the end of July 2014, but would be happy if the store was able to move out prior to that date. As a result, Spartacus Books moved to a new storefront at 3378 Findlay (near Trout Lake) at the end of May 2014.
Spartacus Books is a bookstore that is run by a loosely organized collective which operates on a very horizontal consensus decision making structure. Any member of the public can fill out an application to join the collective, and after an interview process to make sure that the prospective volunteer understands the basic principles of respect, and the general rules of the store, the volunteer gets trained, and after volunteering is considered a member of the collective.
It is usually described as a "radical bookstore", and among its sections are anarchism, "womyn", "queer lit", poetry, First Nations, "organizing", socialism, history and ecology, plus a section of non-specialized "sale" used books. The bookstore is often used for various events such as movie nights and book releases, which often bring in various different people into the store. Spartacus has been described over the years as a nerve centre of alternative culture in Vancouver, where various organizations hold meetings. Groups that have used the space for meetings throughout the years include the anarchistic free school movement, Vancouver Indymedia, cooperative housing, the Vancouver Esperanto group and the local chapter of Industrial Workers of the World. There are two computers connected to the internet and running free software and a WiFi hotspot which can be used for free.