Native Books Inc. was founded in 1990 by Maile Meyer, an avid reader and entrepreneurial spirit. The idea came to her after being asked why she was interested in a book business when "Hawaiians don't read."
Over the next ten years, a number of community events found Meyer in the mix with a table of books, mostly published by Bishop Museum Press and the University of Hawai'i Press. Native Books distributed books to booksellers, schools, libraries, and walk-in customers in Kalihi.
The motto, getting "good books in good hands," inspired the earliest years of Native Books. The brands' focus was also "mai ke kumu a ka welau" - from the trunk to the tip of the leaf. This is a directive to carry every book in print about every aspect of Hawai'i.