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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, Greater Dayton Area

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…

The view as you walk into Books & Co.

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.

Half the SFF section. This half is bigger than the whole at B&N.

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.

They’ve recently increased the amount of shelving they have up.

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).

Books, books, all the way back… a bit of music up front. 

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.

Pulpy goodness!

26 Comments
  1. You have no idea how deeply jealous I am of those bookstores right now. I want to be able to go!!! They don’t have shops like that here! Except maybe Kinokuniya, which I visited forever ago (and have books in Japanese and English…)

    March 16, 2019
    • Charles Timpko #

      Not sure where in Asia you are located, but the Kinokuniya stores in Dubai (Dubai Mall) and Singapore (Ngee Ann Plaza) are massive. The Dubai store (in my view) is better because 90% of its books are in English, while the Singapore branch is probably 75% English, 25% Chinese. The only store that comes close to them in the U.S. is Powell’s in Portland. There are a lot of branch stores in Japan, including some quite large, but for obvious reasons they have mostly books in Japanese.

      March 18, 2019
      • Hubby visited the Kinokuniya in Dubai once;brought home a lot of books. He said that you needed a map to get around; and you’d get one printed out after you selected the section/genre you wanted to look at. The one I visited a long time ago was in Sydney; they had both English and Japanese books.

        Fully Booked in the Philippines, in it’s top days had loads of books, but I was told there were plenty of branches closing down last time I was there May 2018. The biggest one was the main one that had four, five floors full of books. *grin* Taking Dad and then boyfriend there was fun. (We ALL spent a lot, got a lot, hurray for discount cards. “Oh, wait, that brings me down to THIS MUCH?! Wait here I can get some of those other books” -any one of us. #BestDayEver took home piles of books.)

        March 19, 2019
  2. Yep, totally jealous here, too. Our one local used bookstore is only open 3 days a week at odd hours (for me). This post makes me want to do a tour of all the local thrift shops again to see if they’re hiding anything good in their stacks. I really go for old crime fiction but any old fiction will do. (And sometimes non-fiction, if it’s interesting enough.)

    March 16, 2019
  3. John R. Ellis #

    Man, the only local non chain bookstore here is depressing and confusing. (The local B-A-M is pretty good but a bit far away and the three B&Ns are okay.)

    March 16, 2019
  4. With Borders long gone and Books-A-Million having next to nothing I want, I have been remiss in visiting brick-n-mortar book stores. I need to fix that. A quick peak at Google maps shows that there is a “new” B&N just down the road and apparently, at least one independent shop, plus one used store. Looks like I need to carve out some time to go prowl.

    March 16, 2019
    • Mary #

      Good hunting!

      March 16, 2019
  5. Draven #

    iwannago

    March 16, 2019
    • We should totally do bookstore crawls.

      March 16, 2019
      • Rooooaaaaaddd Trip! (I have a pick-up. You have boxes of books.)

        March 16, 2019
      • TheOtherSean #

        That might actually work. The Cincinnati-Dayton corridor has enough independent bookstores and not-B&N chains that one could occupy a day – or more – browsing. As opposed to B&N, where with five bibliophiles in the car and a B&N right there none said “yes” when the idea of stopping there came up.

        March 16, 2019
      • Y’all making me wish I had a yacht or something, so I could trip over there just to go bookstore crawling with you guys. ;_; Boooks~

        March 17, 2019
  6. Blue Jacket Books in Xenia is still alive online, but they now only have the restaurant in brick and mortar form. I first went on their last day. – It was organized very oddly. What annoys me is that it turns out there was a book I want, in a section I checked, which apparently was not visible.

    March 16, 2019
    • I don’t get as far as Xenia often. I didn’t include the Bookery in this list, as it’s in Fairborn. For comics it’s probably great, but I go in there to see the small but choice collection of pulp paperbacks.

      March 16, 2019
      • TheOtherSean #

        I’ve never checked them out, but I recall passing a couple bookstores in Yellow Springs, when I’ve passed through en-route to John Bryan State Park.

        March 16, 2019
        • Corporate Goth #

          I haven’t been there in a few years, but Dark Star in Yellow Springs used to have a good selection of scifi and military history.

          Cedar – thanks! I’m local, nearly choked when I recognized the photo at the Greene, and realize I need to be exploring more myself.

          March 16, 2019
  7. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    I chuckled at the “The Book Is Better” sign. 😀

    March 16, 2019
  8. Christopher M. Chupik #

    If I were rich (ha!) I’d be a bookstore tourist: travelling the world to check out used bookstores.

    March 16, 2019
  9. Uncle Lar #

    For anyone attending Libertycon, I recommend McKay Bookstore a warehouse sized used book store along with used music and video materials. Must be in excess of a million books there along with CDs, DVDs, records, video games and more.

    March 16, 2019
  10. I grew up north of Dayton, and the little bookstore that I used to walk to as a kid is long gone, but at least the library is still there (looks like they moved into the half-empty strip mall, which probably saved them a bundle). I read a ton of vintage SF at that library back in the Seventies.

    Out here in sunny California, it’s 25 miles to the nearest B&N, which is it for current releases; there’s actually a new used bookstore downtown, but their web site consists entirely of royalty-free stock photos, so I’ve never visited. It’s down the block from a decent Japanese restaurant, though, so maybe I’ll wander in some day to see what it actually looks like.

    The one nice thing I can say about them is that their F***book page linked to an announcement of a coming-soon Heinlein novel (a divergent Number of the Beast). Then again, they also link to healing herbs and cleansing incense, because California.

    -j

    March 16, 2019
  11. Our local book store (newly opened!) is about the size of my living room (which given that my house is only 1100 square feet should tell you something.) I envy you the awesome bookstores. Especially the kids’ stuff. It’s so hard to find things for my boy.

    March 16, 2019
  12. Totally envious. I don’t know how long it’s been since I went to a book store. It’s too easy to order what I want from Amazon. I really miss a good prowl through the shelves.

    March 16, 2019
  13. So, I built a map of the local area to keep track of the various tap rooms and breweries my Dad and I have been at. And, I added bookstores to it. You can find it here (places in black I’ve been to).

    And, I built one of San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Denver, and I’m working on a Dublin (Ireland) and a London map now.

    March 16, 2019
  14. The only decent used bookstores anywhere near where I’m at are some Friends of the Library-type places. Not a bad selection, but the hours are strange.

    March 16, 2019
  15. 23 skidoo

    March 17, 2019
  16. JC #

    My ex-wife’s family in in the Kennebunk/Wells Maine area, which seems to be populated solely by people selling books. Something to do with the weather, I understand. I used to like to take the occasional drink or five at a place just blocks from the parent’s place in Houston, which had a number of bookshelves, and a ‘take one/leave one’ policy. The new management took out the bookshelves to add YET ANOTHER damn big screen of sportzball, and, get this, a video golf game. It had started life as a jazz bar with live music where I was welcomed to play or just listen. Saw George Shearing there one time. He just dropped in after a gig because he’d heard it was nice.

    March 19, 2019

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