Elizabeth Lane is the founder of quarterlane, a quarterly subscription box for books. Elizabeth Lane is the book buyer at Partners Village Store and Kitchen in Westport, Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Elizabeth previously worked in contemporary art as a researcher for both galleries and museums alongside her own curatorial and writing projects. quarterlane combines her interest in – curation and books – by connecting readers with books they’ll love. quarterlane, “bridges the gap between independent bookstores and the internet–bringing the trust and discernment one finds within a bookstore to the ease of the online marketplace.” If you love reading and are constantly looking for a good book to read, look no further. (And buy the limited edition summer box!)
Elizabeth Lane, quarterlane
What inspired you to start quarterlane?
I am the book buyer at Partners Village Store, our local independent book and gift store in Westport, Massachusetts. We are a coastal town – bustling during the summer and very quiet during the winter months. As a book buyer, I am reading all the time – discovering new titles, revisiting older ones, and then discerning what our customer would want to read. Our Westport customer has very distinct tastes and so choosing appropriate titles for the store is essential. When I first started buying books for Partners, I was most surprised by how overwhelmed and intimidated people often feel walking into a bookstore and, therefore, value a bit of guidance. Because of this, the role of bookseller is very relational. As Amazon grows, this relational aspect between the bookseller and the customer is increasingly lost and this loss is keenly felt.
With this in mind, I was inspired to find a way to bring the well-curated and personal experience our customer finds in our store to them in the off-season. And so quarterlane was born! I hope to bring the trust and discernment inherent to a bookstore to the online space.
What is quarterlane’s mission and how do you achieve it?
With 900,000+ books being published each year – alongside an ever-growing number of self-published books – and an increasing reliance on Amazon for these titles, readers are losing the “good recommendation” and trust that comes from shopping with their local bookseller. This customer must either rely on the Amazon picks or their own research into what is reviewed and on bestseller lists, perhaps missing a quiet “sleeper book” that is perfect for them. We are busier than ever and the leisure time required to “find a good book” no longer exists for many people. Through quarterlane, I hope to fill this gap by providing a quarterly subscription service that brings the best books of the season to a reader’s front door.
What were the first logistical steps you took to start a business?
The idea came to me in a flash during a conversation with a friend. I was immediately excited by it and bounced the idea off my husband and sister who said the idea had legs. Trusting this little nudge, I leapt in! I immediately called Courtney Grace Peterson of Logic & Grace to help me with the next steps necessary to make this idea real and off we went. Collaborating with L&G has been a real game-changer and Courtney’s insights have been so valuable to me in these early days – she’s brilliant.
What is a day as Elizabeth like? Please walk me through a day!
I have two young girls, ages six and seven so my day usually begins very early with a wake-up call from our earliest riser. Then it is the morning bustle getting everyone out the door and off to school! I am also a running ambassador for Every Mother Counts, a non-profit based in New York City that works to bring maternal healthcare to mothers worldwide and so I run quite a few races throughout the year to raise both awareness and funds for EMC. Usually after my girls are off to school with my husband, I try to squeeze in a run. I find this time is absolutely invaluable in terms of idea generation and problem-solving as it really serves as my morning meditation. I then head to the bookstore for the day, pick my girls up from school, try to squeeze in a beach walk, manage dinner and bedtime, and then work on quarterlane! I try to read for a couple of hours every night, though admittedly time gets away from me. It’s a packed day, but energizing as well. It’s an absolute dream to work with books.
What are your responsibilities as CEO of quarterlane?
Right now, I am responsible for every aspect of the business – from reaching out to authors and publishers to bookkeeping and packing and shipping each box. A true startup! I actually love packing the boxes. I have always loved giving gifts and so now I get to do that on a larger scale!
What has been your proudest moment from your career so far?
My proudest moment was starting quarterlane – when I recognized a spark of an idea, tested it a bit with friends and family, and then just dove all-in. It’s been risky and scary and, in the middle of an already busy and happy life, I could have taken the safer route and let the idea pass. I love the safer road and so I am so proud that, in this case, I didn’t take it.
What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of starting quarterlane?
The biggest challenge so far is trying to shift a mindset around the perception of books – taking books from an item many customers now believe should be deeply discounted and elevating the printed book to the luxury status it so dearly deserves.
For me, there is no greater luxury than those stolen moments of leisure to read a good book. Slowing down, appreciating solitude, relishing the tactile experience inherent to reading a hardcover at home — the weight of the book, the smell and feel of the pages —this is a true luxury for me, even though it is perhaps more convenient and more portable to have books on a tablet. I am not knocking the e-reader. I often take my tablet on vacation and booksellers are able to access many books pre-publication online. It is a wonderful resource for us. And so I do believe printed books can easily exist alongside the tablet. I just adore a beautiful hardcover. So in that sense, the biggest challenge has been the biggest reward. Each day, I have the opportunity to see someone’s eyes light up holding a book – whether in person or on Instagram, I love seeing people find joy within the printed page.
I love the art in the summer series, how does art factor into the quarterlane experience?
I started the Artist Series for purely personal reasons because it brings in another passion of mine – visual art. My career prior to books was in contemporary art – as an independent curator and researcher for both museums and galleries – and so the Artist Series was simply a way for me to marry these loves – art and books! I felt celebrating authors alongside visual artists was such a natural fit and this collaborative aspect to quarterlane is so exciting for me. While someone hopefully discovers a new favorite author through quarterlane, I hope they discover a new artist as well!
What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
Looking back, I wish I could tell my 23 year-old self that while a career may be a windier road than expected on a path that isn’t clear – given time, space, trust, and a bird’s-eye view, you may find the direction was clear all along. Trust your intuition, your instinct, and find the joy in a few leaps-of-faith along the way. That’s where the magic happens.
What is on your desk right now?
What are your three favorite books?
What are you reading right now?
I am reading “Here I Am” by Jonathan Safran Foer which will be released in early September
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I was training for my first marathon a few years ago and was very anxious about the actual day – basically wondering how I could make it from Staten Island to Central Park in one piece. A friend told me not to run hard, to simply “run happy.” That was life-changing and I think of “running happy” in every corner of my life.
What is your career advice for other young professional women?
“Run happy” in every sense!