#IndependentBookstoreDay

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Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Em Carpenter
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    says:

    Man, I wish I had time to visit Taylor Books (here in Charleston, WV) today! In the age of Kindles and online buying (in both of which I partake), nothing beats browsing the shelves. I went to Books A Million recently and they are as much games, toys, and novelties as books, if not more so.Report

  2. Avatar Andrew Donaldson
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    I duck into The Country Bookshop in lovely Southern Pine’s NC frequently. Great location among the real gem of a walking district that is Southern Pines. Plus steps away from several of my favorite restaurants.Report

  3. Avatar Juliusagusta
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    says:

    Something about a physical book.Report

    • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Juliusagusta
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      says:

      we talked about it in a previous thread, but with e-reading, which I do a lot of, its almost like I read it too fast. If I am doing something academic or I need to really retain I prefer hardcopy book, at least for me its like I retain the information better and I find it much more enjoyable.Report

  4. Avatar Saul Degraw
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    says:

    SF has a bunch of indie bookstores. Mainly used but some sell a combo of new and used.

    I am a fan of Green Apple, Aardvark, and Dog Eared. There is also Moe’s in Berkeley and BookSmith on Haight. Alexander’s is downtown.

    Though my heart will always belong to the Strand.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Saul Degraw
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      I will be in SF this week! I’ll be sure to check one of these places out. I’m staying near Union Square. Suggestions?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Em Carpenter
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        says:

        Union Square is the hotel and high-end retail area. So the closest bookstores at City Lights and Alexander’s.

        City Lights is a San Francisco and literary icon and worth checking out on Columbus Ave. It will be a bit of a hike and also decently uphill. The selection tends towards the independent and obscurish. The most mainstream stuff is still well in the realm of literary fiction.Report

        • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Saul Degraw
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          Thank you! I will definitely try to make it there. I’m not scared of hills- flat land is a rarity where I’m from. My biggest constraint will be that I am tied up in conference until at least 5, and don’t want to traipse about a strange city alone too late in the evening. Friday I am touring Alcatraz, and other than that it’s up in the air, so I will put that high on my list of things I would like to do.Report

    • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Saul Degraw
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      @saul-degraw The pic with the post is City Lights, so SF is represented well with the list you provide.Report

  5. Avatar Aaron David
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    I love browsing books stores, even with a to-be-read pile a mile high, will probably stop in Browsers, bs with Scott for a bit.

    That said, I rarely go into new bookstores at all, indies and B&N are too cookie cutter for me at this point. They all seem to fall into the Ingram trap of ordering. I could drive up to Powells, but that is a dead store, a problem with most used stores at this point also. I love a store that just has piles of books everywhere, no time to shelve them, too busy buying. You have no idea what you will find. A book-scouts paradise.Report

    • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Aaron David
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      says:

      I like the “piled books” type of store as well, unfortunately that makes for a poor business model in an integrated POS-analytical ordering world.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Andrew Donaldson
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        I live next to The Last Bookstore here in LA (yes, that was a factor in my choice of apartments) and they have a decidedly eclectic way of displaying their books, such as forming them into arches.
        Alas, those books are not for sale however.Report

      • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Andrew Donaldson
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        says:

        I have worked in too many stores (we book-scouts call them “live stores”) where it worked financially for them to call it wrong. The trick at the last bookstore I worked at was to have two portions of the business; one online, one instore. And never the two shall meet. There are books that sell online, and books that sell in store (yes there is overlap) with the trick being to be able to differentiate the two.

        I also have little respect for used bookstores that use bar-codes. Price is penciled on the half-title page or before, but not on the FFE. Hrrmph.Report

        • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Aaron David
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          says:

          I find this fascinating do expound on it: So is there a trend or generality to the difference between what sells in store compared to online? And how do they differentiate?Report

          • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Andrew Donaldson
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            says:

            @andrew-donaldson
            The difference is primarily, what would someone really try to track down? In the pre-internet days, a good used bookstore would do searches, tracking down titles for a small fee, using in-trade publications and contacts. Well, that has died with sites like Book Finder, ABE books and to a lesser degree Amazon. People don’t pay 20-30 bucks for much of anything spur of the moment, but they will when they really need that book on the history of the purl stitch, an ethnography of Turkmenistan from 1929 or anything that specific. Those they will pay cash for, but the chance of someone just walking into a shop and picking up something that specific is virtually nil.

            The other half of the equation is the need to “pay rent” on everything in the store. By this, I mean that as used books, or any used merchandise really, There is no returning the product. Most new books are bought at 70% of retail, with the ability to return the unsold product. Used books are, obviously, non-returnable. So, if you have a book that might take years to find the right customer, you are in effect paying to store it. And with many used bookstores in areas with very expensive retail rates (that last store I mentioned? $4500/month) you really can’t afford to keep too many books like that on the shelves. A good store will keep some to be sure, but many of those are stored off-site in a much cheaper location.

            The one thing that goes back and forth between the two is the 1st edition trade. A good bookstore has to keep them in store, for the same reason that a jewelry store will have some higher end stuff. It is nice to look at and draws in customers. But they are able to keep track of this pretty easy.Report

            • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Aaron David
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              @aaron-david

              I think one of the reasons the Strand was able to survive was because of they bought their building when they buying was cheap or cheap enough. Maybe they bought the block and can charge rent. But the Strand turned itself into a Brand (capitalization important) and a Strand totebag is a must-have item for a certain kind of young woman who wants to be literary and nerdy-cute but also downtown cool and bohemian (I don’t want to be sexist here but I have never seen a guy carry a Strand totebag. I have seen women in the above description carry them in every major metro in the U.S.)

              I still value the Strand because it is much easier to browse a bookstore than Amazon. I’ve picked up books that I wouldn’t be able to find on Amazon just by being among the stacks.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                Katz’s Deli survives because they own the land they sit on.Report

              • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw
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                says:

                I would bet dollars to donuts that is how they have survived, as many bookstores have had to go that route. I haven’t been in The Stand for about 20 years now, but I have generally positive memories. Moes in Berkeley was always one of my favorites, but I love a messy store, and that is going away there. Shakespear and Co. was always great.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Andrew Donaldson
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            says:

            @andrew-donaldson

            To add on to what @aaron-david was saying, the Strand has or had what can be called a “design/consulting” side business. People will call them, tell them what their house looked like, what kind of image they wanted to convey, and the Strand would curate a book collection for them. I think some other bookstores have this as a side business as well.

            There is also the rare-book angle. The Strand had a rare book business on the third floor that I never went to because I can’t afford a 1st edition Great Gatsby.Report

            • Avatar Andrew Donaldson in reply to Saul Degraw
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              The idea of curating a book collect just became daydream material. I’m sure I have heard of such a thing before but what a wonderful thought. Even with quite a few books I’ve hoarded over the years, in the new house I’ve actually found myself needing to fill the new shelving I’ve had built for the office. No first editions obviously for us simple working folk, although there are a few I’m rather proud of. Like my Father’s complete set of the Sandburg Lincoln biography he got from his father that isn’t worth money, but meant a lot to go from being punished as a kid for handling them to trusted to keep it.

              That would make a good weekend post, if money was no object how would you direct a curator to fill out your library.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw
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              I didn’t know the Strand had a service like this. It makes sense as a money earner. There is definitely business for books that look nice to impress people but you will never read based on the ads for great books in handsome leather bindings. I imagine that most people in the book business look at people who hire them to curate a book collection for appearance’s sake with contempt though.Report

            • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Saul Degraw
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              says:

              The dirty little secret of 1st editions is that, for hyper-moderns especially, no one in the trade really collects them. They come and go in popularity too quickly to be anything other than a cash cow for a store, while older ones like Gatsby are simply worth too much to hold onto. Most of us look for nice, period copies as readers because no matter how much we love books, we need to pay the mortgage. I have early Steinbecks with beautiful jackets, but they aren’t Viking so not really collectible. $200 vs $20K. My old boss had a wonderful collection of pre-war Japanese pornography.

              By hyper-modern, I am really talking about post-war titles. Think Stephen King or Donna Tartt. In the printing, there are not enough errors or changes to warrant the reasons that 1sts became collectible in the first place. At that point, you are checking the points off on a list of know corrections over the editions; is line 23 on page 14 printed twice, was the third paragraph in the introduction removed because the wife thought it mentioned the girlfriend and so on.Report

  6. Avatar Em Carpenter
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    says:

    I just had time to read through these comments and I am craving the scent of old books, like the rarely visited fifth floor of the old section of the main campus library at WVU. I think everything has been moved to the new section (it was new when I was an undergrad, and I refuse to consider that it is no longer new), and the more obsolete materials moved offsite to storage. The downtown library here, also old and charming, may have to do for a lunchtime trek to get a fix.Report

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Em Carpenter
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      says:

      Checking back in to report that I made the trek to City Lights, and I fell in love (I have fallen in love with the city in general)! I found a really cool book, signed by the author. It combines neurology, Parkinson’s disease research and the works of William Burroughs.
      I also went to readers Bookstore at Fort Mason, a cool little secondhand bookstore that supports the SF public library.
      Thanks for the recommendations!Report

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