Used bookstores doing fine, allegedly

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Several years ago the chain used bookstore* McKay’s moved into my area. It not only did exceptionally well but it had to move because it outgrew its old location. Although it should be noted that even the new bookstore Parnassus Books is thriving. It’s stayed small even though its author events sometimes draw overflow crowds. When Jenny Lawson came to promote Furiously Happy they had to book a venue downtown that’s also hosted David Sedaris and Lewis Black.

*A phrase I still can’t believe I’m using


“Barista! Another Roald Dahl and two more hot chocolates.”


Austin’s Bookpeople seems to be doing well, how well? I don’t know, but they have constant authors/speakers, reading events, book signings. I’ve gotten stuff signed by Amanda Palmer, Neil Patrick Harris, and in a few weeks i’m attending a signing for Brandon Sanderson. I really love visiting Bookpeople when i can (though i don’t have a car so it’s not a lot) but i check their events fairly often so that’s my excuse to spend money on books.

There’s also Half Price Books, i don’t go there too often but i often find older books there that are seldomly stocked by most places besides online places. And theys not always used stuff there, i’ve bought some brand new art books on discount there :slight_smile:


What about physical Amazon stores?

Amazon Books, a brick and mortar shop in an upscale mall in Seattle, is a looming presence to the remaining independents that has yet to take down.
“People are going to think I’m Chicken Little,” says Pam Cady, the manager of general books at Seattle’s 116-year-old University Book Store, “but the sky is falling.”

This seems weird to me anyway, because the University Bookstore is huge (and regularly has people like @doctorow doing readings). I’m surprised they’d suffer too much from that weird little Amazon store (which admittedly, I’ve not been to).

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They are the official university bookstore for textbooks and branded swag which is a whole different scam. While I don’t really buy books there MrsTobinL goes there regularly for stationery and ink refills or a new pen when she loses the current one.


I loved Bookpeople when I lived down there! Awesome computer books section, and earlier on they had a good selection of music books. I thought they’d closed off their top floor (wonder why they didn’t just rent it out, assuming they could) but glad to hear they’re still around.

I love Half Price and hit them up whenever I’m in Texas. Usually, though, it’s for CDs more than books. We have some used bookstores around here (D.C. area) but, I think, not as many as around DFW. Maybe a handful of independents simply isn’t as visible as a chain of Half Price stores, though.

The cool store that we do have around here is Daedalus, which sells new but discounted books (and CDs and movies).

At this point, though, I have more books stacked around here than I’ll be able to read in the foreseeable future. (I’ll never say that about CDs.)

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I understand they offer amenities other bookstores don’t.


After we lost all local bookstores besides B&N, which is in a relatively distant location, our Friends of the Library group stepped in, selling donated secondhand books and a few local interest new ones. They have the main bookstore/warehouse where donations are processed, and 2 satellite stores in malls. They have been doing a booming business, and contribute back to the area libraries by funding events and special purchases we wouldn’t get otherwise.


No, they’ll suffer when Duane retires. He’s been running the Science Fiction section since before I was 18 (and I’m 44 now). He’d recommended me books to read most of my adult life (and used to set good ones aside for me knowing I’d come in and he’d want me to buy them). Duane is the reason Cory and many others have returned there again and again for author events. Hell, I met Neal Stephenson there when Snowcrash came out.


One used book store opened here with the story that the owner had too many books,
so he used them to open the store. I assume they eventually got books the traditional way,
but maybe they just ran out of books. They closed a few years back after at least twenty years
in operation.

That’s not an uncommon story. A number of used bookstores here have been opened by “older” people, a sort of early retirement thing, they already had the interest in books. So even if they didn’t seed the store from their own collection, they were already looking for books on the used market, and have some level of “expertise”. Of course, then some lament having to sell books they’d otherwise keep, but they can always read the books before selling them off.


I thought that’s how Half Price originally started, but I think I’m mistaken.

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Seems to be the case around here. At least two chains have packed up in the past decade (Barnes and Noble seems to be hanging on still), but I don’t think a single used bookstore has gone out of business, and I can think of six or seven just off the top of my head.


Strand needs to stop shouting at their customers whenever they set their shopping basket down for a moment.


Adventures in Crime and Space is/was a much lamented bookstore of this type in Austin. The guy even had a perfect first edition copy of Snowcrash which is insanely difficult to find as almost all of them ended up in libraries due to a very limited run. Oh, and also JK Rowling was at Bookpeople for a Harry Potter signing, which must have been utterly insane. And the Austin Half-Price Books main store had to move into a huge vacated grocery store just to have enough room…


Selling recycled books is a good business model. Boing Boing seems to be following suit, publishing recycled articles.

(No worries, Rob. I’m not mad, just observant.)

This, exactly this! The big stores never have what a true bibliophile is looking for! And for every Malcolm Gladwell book that the casual reader picks up at a big store, there’s twenty more older and more obscure volumes the avid reader would purchase if they were only there to be purchased in the first place!

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I was ecstatic when the local Borders closed - not because they closed per se, but because I got to line the walls of one room of my house with floor to ceiling bookshelves!

Pretty much, i have been trying to get more into fantasy books and whenever i tried to see if the local B&N had them so i could read them before deciding if it was something i would like i could never find the books, they’d only have in stock the very last one in the series. Which is endlessly irritating.

Shout out to Half Price Books, in Austin and other places in Texas, and many other fine states in our great reading nation:

Pratchett paperbacks galore for last minute gift-giving?
Neal Stephenson novels reliably drifting in and out of stock?
Check. Got Seveneves for yes right half price in hard cover about 4 weeks after it had been released nationwide.
Goofy calendars my elderly mom likes?
Remaindered stocks of cheap sealed boxed thank-you notes, for all your gratitude needs?
Vinyl? Freakin’ vinyl? And CDs?
Used DVDs, some of them quite obscure racking up one large corner of the store?
Clerks who know way way waaaaaaaay too much for their pay grade and are reliably insightful?
Check. And check. At least in Austin, this is abundantly true.
How about a mission to give away their books to worthy causes? For 43 years?
Check. Yep.

Money pit warning!

I don’t work there. I no affiliation of any kind with Half Price. I admit that in 1990 this store and its mindset were some leading indicators I used when deciding to move to Austin. People read here. It’s not some weird arcane activity for olds and dorks. People are literate here. It’s not dangerous to be smart here, or show that your tastes lie outside the mainstream of anything. Oh and Barton Springs is nice in the summer too.

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