Encyclopedia Of Detroit

John King Books

John King Books, or John K. King Used and Rare Books is an independent bookseller in Michigan that has an estimated one million books in its stock, including many rare titles. The bookstore was established in 1965 in Dearborn by John K. King. King always had an interest in buying and selling used books and antiques and so with the support of his high school guidance counselor, Elsie Freitag, he turned his hobby into a career.

In 1971, he moved his business to a rented location in the Michigan Theatre Building in downtown Detroit. In 1983, King decided to purchase a building of his own and he purchased the abandoned Advance Glove Factory on West Lafayette that consisted of a basement and four above-ground floors, which was plenty of room to store and shelf the store’s books. Soon after, he also purchased an adjacent building, the old Otis Elevator building, in which the collection’s rarer and more notable books are located that can be seen by appointment only.

The store gets many visitors each day looking for used titles throughout the four floors. In order to help them browse through the collection, maps are given to patrons as they enter. King also has two smaller stores, one near Wayne State University in the city’s cultural center, and one in Ferndale. Today, he continues to add to the collection and is often cataloging rare books. John King Books has twenty employees, two dogs, and two canaries.