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Monday, December 04, 2023

Bookstore on wheels passes through Gainesville

Lichen Press, a used bookmobile, stopped on UF campus Thursday and Friday night

Lichen Press is run by stagehands Sinead Figiel and Phynix Davis.
Lichen Press is run by stagehands Sinead Figiel and Phynix Davis.

The view from the UF Bat Houses this week was a unique sight to behold — but it wasn’t because of the usual swarm of bats ascending into the sunset.   

Parked right beside the airborne attraction was a bright pink RV covered with strips and splotches of neon paint. Outside of the van, paint cans held up planks of wood serving as de facto bookshelves. 

Lichen Press — a used bookstore and book repair shop on wheels — set up on UF’s campus Thursday and Friday night. The bookmobile’s inventory included about 150 books spanning genres from classics to children’s books. Any proceeds were planned to be split with the Civic Media Center and the Gainesville Books to Prisoners initiative. 

The operation is run by stagehands Sinead Figiel and Phynix Davis. Originally from Buffalo, New York, the two began their bookmobile journey in Miami as means to take them to a seasonal job in the Outer Banks. On their drive up to North Carolina, the two have plans to stop in places such as Savannah, Georgia, and Myrtle Beach, Figiel said, and they hope to have a regular set-up spot in the Outer Banks once they arrive.

Thursday’s gig by the Bat Houses was Lichen Press’ first stop on the road, and Figiel said they made their first sale Friday — but the duo have bigger plans for the future. 

Figiel described Lichen Press as the precursor to a publishing house. She also said opening up a brick-and-mortar bookstore has been a dream of hers for the past 10 years — something she plans to achieve within the next year. 

For now, Figiel and Davis are working toward building up their own library, collecting books to sell while on the road. Most of their inventory, Figiel said, comes from thrift stores or eBay, though a few were initially bought new for their personal collections. 

A few of the books for sale were also hand-bound by Figiel and Davis themselves. Figiel said they accomplish this by cutting cardboard to size and then binding the cover with dental floss or thread. 

Mostly, however, Lichen Press is inspired by Figiel’s long-standing love of reading, as well as the escapism and solace it brings. 

“All my life, books have been that comfort place,” she said. “Something to live in, something to hope for — they’re what I stand on.”

Anyone who stumbles upon Lichen Press is sure to feel the same. 

Figiel and Davis also take donations to their GoFundMe in order to keep Lichen Press running and on the road.

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Contact Veronica Nocera at Follow her on Twitter @vernocera.

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Veronica Nocera

Veronica Nocera is a third-year journalism major, history minor and The Avenue editor. She spent two semesters reporting arts and culture for The Alligator and also writes for Rowdy Magazine. When she’s not writing, she’s probably reading, journaling or taping random pictures to her wall. Also, she’ll probably be wearing yellow. 

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