For nearly 20 years, Wordsworth Classics has partnered with Wordsworth Editions as the sole distributer of their classic books in North America. The vision for Wordsworth began over twenty-five years ago in England when they decided to create a line of great literature, available at a price that all could afford. The continuing success of Wordsworth is built on that one simple principle: to produce the best quality books, at the lowest possible price. Wordsworth now offers over 400 titles of beautiful books at the most competitive price point on the market and can be found on every continent!
The Wordsworth Classics office and warehouse are located in Knoxville, Tennessee. We are part of L.B May & Associates, a family owned business that has been, in one way or another, working in the book business for more than 30 years. We bring our stock of Wordsworth titles over from England by the container load several times a year to supply our warehouse, where we pick, pull and ship the orders we receive to our customers every day.
Larry and his wife Valerie started their business in 1991. It stemmed from being part of the National Book Warehouse chain, one of the first series of stores that solely carried discounted books. This eventually lead Larry to establish his own company which was initially built to exclusively sell aftermarket books to a co-op of books sellers, called the Affiliated Value Booksellers. Although the Co-Op disbanded in the Mid Nineties several positive aspects emerged and our family business became what it is today. For instance, The Affiliated Value Booksellers transformed into a public trade show called The Spring Book Show, later called GABBS, which grew into the second largest bargain book show in the nation before we retired it in 2017. We also developed a newsletter with 20,000 subscribers called Bargain Book News, and of course, along the way, developed our relationship with Wordsworth Editions in England.
Through all of these experiences, we found that there was a desperate need for better shipping rates to these small, independent bookstores. We took that knowledge and entered into the Third Party Logistics (3PL) industry, developing Freight Management Systems, a service centered shipping company. Today FMS is the largest company in the L.B. May family and we now ship everything from books to CAT scan machines.
On a personal level, Larry is originally from Newark Ohio and is a graduate of the Ohio State University, where he pitched baseball (at the Newark branch). He moved to Knoxville in the late 70’s, originally working for NPOs like the March of Dimes and the United Way before entering the book industry. He also attended the MPA Program at the University of Tennessee. He remains an active Rotarian, where he has served as President of two different clubs. He has been very involved in our community throughout the years, everything from to coaching hundreds of kids in baseball to hosting and fundraising with Young Life, a youth organization and The Christian Hospitality Network. Today he uses our conference center on Sunday’s to host a church, which he speaks at regularly. Although he is still very busy at work, as one always is when they own their own business, these days he is more mindful about spending time doing the things he loves, like sneaking away to play golf, where he finds himself at the top of his game, and going on playdates with his grand-daughter.
Valerie, who has done everything from route freight to accounting during the early years of the business, was the sole person behind any and all of our marketing efforts for years, until her daughters graduated from college. She, along with all three of her children, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee. She is now fully retired and taking care of her only grandchild (and is very much enjoying the bliss of being a “GV”).
Larry and Valerie have been married for over 35 years and have three children, Tiffany, Travis, and Tori, who have all worked at the family business in many forms and for many years.
Tiffany, their eldest daughter, is currently heading up the Wordsworth division, although Tommy Wilhoit, an employee of LB May for over 20 years (and an un-related nephew to Larry) is still an integral part of the Wordsworth team.
Wordsworth Classics is a trading name of L.B.May & Associates