A microcosm of bookstores
We’ve talked a lot about bookstores in this blog. It’s perhaps no surprise – not only are we authors, we were readers before we started writing. I suspect most of us, myself included, started writing in no small part due to running out of reading material. For me, this was in part a byproduct of not having enough money to buy books whenever I wanted them, and not having transportation to the public library whenever I wanted to go there. Not to mention that I have ‘read through’ the collections of at least two small libraries, being a child of very *coff* rural areas. But now I am an adult. I have a decently paying dayjob. I have a vehicle all my own, and the wherewithal to buy as much gas as I’d like…
And I rarely go to the bookstore. It’s sad, really, what life does to us.
It isn’t that I can’t afford books. I can. And it’s not that I can’t find books – with Amazon at my fingertips, I have been able to secure books I didn’t even know existed in the world until someone showed me a copy and my eyes got big and I looked and lo! there was indeed a copy of Old Possum’s Practical Cats illustrated by Edward Gorey. Or that book of Ohio birds with their likely seasonal appearance in my area. Or the brand new release by my favorite Indie author. I have a world of books that lives inside a palm-sized device that never leaves my body once I’m out of bed or the shower.
But… there’s still something about a good bookstore. And I love bookstores, for all the wrong reasons, perhaps, but still. It’s an addiction I don’t want to kick. But I’d recently visited a bookstore in the big city a little further from us, and was disappointed. So I decided to sample what the local city (population roughly 140,000) had and see what they offered. If you google search for bookstores in the area, you get… interesting results. A lot of college bookstores. I wound up visiting a store I’d been told was Indie, but wasn’t, a book warehouse (everything’s a dollar! Except kid’s books, which are ten dollars a bag!), and a bookstore that started as a used bookstore but is slowly blooming into something more. Honorable mention but weren’t included in my trek: a used bookstore in the quirky part of town (translate: hipster bars, an awesome hat shop, and no parking) that is well worth a visit if you are looking for the pulp and obscure.
Books & Co might have been an Indie store at one point, but it’s been bought out by Books A Million. It’s still worthy of a visit. Two stories of books, with some games and stuff tucked in corners. And a frozen yogurt place in the back, which honestly tickled me. I’ll go back for that! And the books. It’s got a decent selection, with very good used books shelved alongside the new ones. I wound up buying games, but then again I hadn’t gone in looking for anything in particular. Besides, Cards Against Humanity was on the wishlist…
I spent an hour browsing the stacks. Compared to my disappointing look at the B&N a bit further south, their SFF section was noticeably larger and while they still didn’t have the Dave Butler title I’d been looking for, they did have Martin Shoemaker’s brand new release.
My daughters and son still prefer paper. They also love Manga, and this place had the biggest selection I’ve seen in a local bookstore.
From a slick modern store, to the book warehouse. It’s not just the low low price of a buck a book. It’s not knowing what you are going to find on the shelves. So the story of the One Dollar Book Swap is, as I know it, that it’s the overflow from an Amazon bookseller. We all have seen the penny plus shipping books on Amazon. There are books you just can’t move, either the market is oversaturated, or they are so obscure no one wants them, or.. just whatever. I haven’t dabbled enough in that market. Those books wind up here.
The owner of Dollar Book Swap has a real heart for kids, so there are ways you can get large amounts of reading material here for very little. One trip I took here a while back co-incided with a field trip. A swarm of smalls invaded the shop, and to my delight I found myself helping a few find things they might like to read… I understood each child was going home with a free book that day. My heart melted.
The book warehouse is only roughly organized, so it can take some real patience to find jewels hidden in all that roughage. But I’ve come away with some fun titles, and I’m far more likely to take a chance on the books here, because hey, it’s a buck. You can’t even get coffee for that little any longer. From the dollar book shop, I made my way to the big used bookstore with heart, that is slowly transforming itself into a community destination and supporting Indie authors. Murphy’s Books has tens of thousands of used titles, starting at $2 and going up from there. But they also had me, and other local authors, in to do readings and hand-sell books last year. This trip I noticed a small shelf of local author’s books, new, up front (I didn’t grab a photo I’m afraid).
Murphy’s has a big collection of used SFF since the owner is a Fan. I usually head for the ‘vintage’ shelves to see if I can find an antique book or three. This trip? I scored a first edition of Robert Service’s Ballads of a Cheechako. I once scooped almost a whole set of H Rider Haggard’s in lovely Art Deco hardbacks here. This ‘little’ bookstore is in a tiny strip mall in an unfashionable part of town. But I make a point of going there any time I can. Not just to support it, although I certainly want that. But because a world without a bookstore is a poorer, paler place. And besides, it’s a quest. If it were too easy, I might not go at all.