Bookselling innovator Hillel Stavis died of a heart attack on October 20. He was 78.

Stavis was perhaps best known for founding “the complete discount bookseller” in 1975, WordsWorth Books in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Mass. By the 1980s, WordsWorth had become one of the top 10 independent bookstores in the U.S., based on its sales per square foot. It was also one of the first bookstores to have a computerized inventory system and to add online sales, before the arrival of Amazon. WordsWorth also offered worldwide shipping, in-store pickup, and local delivery years before they became a regular feature of other book retailers.

In 1984, less than a decade after WordsWorth opened, Stavis and Glen Legere launched WordStock, one of the first computerized inventory and POS systems designed specifically for bookstores. Developed in conjunction with the inventory system and POS needs at WordsWorth, WordStock is still in use at bookstores and museum stores around the country. It merged with IBID in 2019.

In addition to WordsWorth, Stavis and his wife, Donna Friedman, opened several other Boston-area bookstores, including Curious George Goes to WordsWorth in 1996, a standalone children’s bookstore in Harvard Square. It was named for the inquisitive monkey created by their friends and neighbors, Margret and Hans Rey. In a rare public appearance, Margret Rey signed books at the store’s grand opening.

When WordsWorth’s holding company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and WordsWorth closed in 2004, Curious George remained open. Renamed Curious George and Friends, the children’s store closed in June 2011. Stavis and Friedman also owned and operated Three Little Monkeys, a short-lived children’s store at the Mall at Chestnut Hill in Chestnut Hill, Mass.; WordsWorth Gifts in Harvard Square; and the Penguin Bookshop in Cambridge’s Central Square neighborhood, which stocked every Penguin book in print available in the U.S. and produced a mail-order Penguin catalogue.