Reed is one of five children born to James and Frances Reed of Tuscaloosa. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1969 and has since worked in radio and television, higher education, and public relations. He was a field reporter and hosted "This is the Show that Starts at Noon" interview program at WCFT-TV for four years. He began his public relations career working for Birmingham-area hospitals.
In 1980, Reed began dealing in rare books in his spare time out of his house. In 1985, Reed retired from the professional world, and focused his attention full-time to his bookstore, which outgrew his house and moved to the Wooster Lofts on 1st Avenue North before moving to a 5,000-square-foot, 2nd floor space at 107 20th Street South downtown in the late 1990s. The store moved to its present location in the O'Neill Building on 3rd Avenue North in March 2007.
Reed is an advocate of reading and writing, and is a guest lecturer on the subject at many different venues. Reed is the editor of the Birmingham Arts Journal, a quarterly publication of short stories, poems and visual art. He serves as vice-chair of the Jefferson County Historical Commission.
- Haden, Courtney (November 11, 2010) "The imagination merchants." Birmingham Weekly
- Reed, Jim (July 3, 2011) "Pee Wee's Play Suit" From the Desk of Jim Reed
- Biography at JimReedBooks.com