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Topic: favorite bookstores for science fiction in your area

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Subject: favorite bookstores for science fiction in your area
Date Posted: 9/6/2009 6:54 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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I've been buying sf books for about 40 years, and I've noticed recently that I no longer have a favorite bookstore to go browse for science fiction.  I think this is due to the gradual demise of every bookshop that is not part of a national chain.  The last locally owned bookstore in my area (westward from Milwaukee, Wisconsin) has been lost in the current recession - Schwartz's, not that their sf section was any good.  But my point is that if I list bookstores with science fiction sections that are at a reasonable distance from my house now I get a telling list...

Barnes and Noble, Brookfield Square

Barnes and Noble, Mayfair Mall

Barnes and Noble, Southridge Mall area

Borders, Southridge Mall area

and that's it.  Of those, I've noticed that the sf stock is IDENTICAL at all three Barnes and Noble, and Borders just has a somewhat smaller version of the same thing.  In all those, you can pretty much forget about finding something published more than about 3 or 4 years ago.  Is it the same everywhere? 

Half Price Books, Brookfield Square area

Half Price Books, Southridge Mall area

Half Price Books, Northridge Mall area

Renaissance Used Books, Milwaukee airport

At least we have a lively used bookstore scene here, although we lost a local one of those too this year. The largest and best selection of sf is the Half Price near Southridge.  And I think having a decent used bookstore located in the airport terminal is probably unique.  If you're ever flying through here, be sure to check it out.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 9/6/09 7:01 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2009 7:22 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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It's the same in L.A., only we DON'T have a good used bookstore scene. I'm jealous of my little sister, who lives up in Portland and can go to Powell's all the time.

Subject: SF in LA
Date Posted: 9/6/2009 8:25 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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How sad.  I used to make a point of stopping in at A Change of Hobbit in Santa Monica when I would be in LA.  I really liked the atmosphere of a science fiction only bookstore, with an event schedule and everything, a place that cared especially about sf.  I always came back to the midwest with a bagful of exciting new books.  My websearching just now informed me that it has been closed since 1991. 

Anybody know if the Other Change of Hobbit in Berkeley is still going?  Their website looks a year or two out of date. 

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 9/6/09 8:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Paul H. (PaulH) - ,
Date Posted: 9/6/2009 9:55 PM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2008
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As much as I love browsing bookstores... I gave up on them long ago for much the same reason as you mentioned - they're all the same.  I still stop in at the Barnes & Noble and Half-Price Books at Brookfield Square once in awhile, but for the most part, all my books are found here at PBS, the SF Book Club, and Amazon.

Date Posted: 9/6/2009 11:55 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,450
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It is maybe worse in Arkansas, probably will get more worser still yet. There is an old bookstore not far from U of A campus in Fayetteville. It is a great place for SF or anything else. Once I was paid to do several short things (1200 words, plus or minus 10) for some encyclopedia. I had two things to do on Jack Williamson. I found not only the ones I had to have, but some books about Williamson I didn't know existed. That was 15 years ago. Now, it is still there and making a little money, but the owner is aging and when he gets tired or passes, the store will cease to exist. I scrounge the church sales, library sales, and usually find a few, but dealers go to the same places and buy everything sci-fi.

Date Posted: 9/7/2009 12:41 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,400
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The internet seems to be killing bookstores right and left.  They have a very slim profit margin in the best of times.  Here in Santa Cruz we are lucky to still have an independant bookstore that has a decent SF section.  But there is a huge Border's right down the street.  Of course the chain gets all the new releases first.

Date Posted: 9/7/2009 3:13 AM ET
Member Since: 1/19/2008
Posts: 14,757
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Here in Santa Cruz we are lucky to still have an independant bookstore that has a decent SF section.  But there is a huge Border's right down the street.

and a bit farther down the same street is my favorite UBS, which has a pretty decent sized sf&f section.  i'm far more likely to find an sf&f book i'm looking for there than books in the other genres i read, though still rarely the newest stuff.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 9/7/2009 9:06 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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Compared to you guys, I practically live in the wilderness.  I'm in Saratoga Springs, which is by far the largest city in the area with a population of 25,000 or so.  Consdering the lack of large cities in my area, I'd say there's a pretty good selection of book stores.

- Barnes and Noble at the Wilton Mall plaza has a very good selection of new SF/F.

- Borders on Broadway in Saratoga (less than a mile from where I live) is OK, but has a much smaller book selection.

- The Lyrical Ballad is a used bookstore on Phila St. here in Saratoga.  They are in it to make money, so you won't often find great deals, but the place is huge, sprawling through what must have been several older buildings, and I have found a ton of vintage and newer SF there.

- The Saratoga Springs Public Library Book Bag Shop sells donated books.  They have a pretty good selection, and most paperbacks are only $1-$2, and hardcovers maybe $3.  They also periodically have $0.10 sales to clear out inventory, and I've had some good finds at those.

Recently I've been seeing ads in the paper for a book sale in the town of South Glens Falls.  I am going to have to check it out one of these days.

I am sure there are more book stores in Albany (45 minutes away) but I haven't really explored down there.  I used to live a little further north in Hudson Falls (yes, on the Hudson River) and there was a little used book store near me.  I don't even know if they are still in business.  I also used to visit a store (Waldenbooks maybe?) at the Aviation Mall in Queensbury, NY.  Actually, I have fond memories of that place.  Sometimes I'd go to see a movie, arrive early, and buy a book there to pass the time. 

 

Paul H. (PaulH) - ,
Date Posted: 9/7/2009 12:13 PM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2008
Posts: 146
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I used to love Waldenbooks... and anyone remember B. Daltons?  As a kid I'd go to the mall and would spend all my time in those stores.  I have to admit the Barnes & Nobles and Borders of today are overall better atmospheres... but sometimes I miss those cramped aisles where you had to squeeze past one another to see what was on the next shelf over!

Subject: IndieBound -
Date Posted: 9/7/2009 1:06 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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My local bookstore is Port Book & News, but they don't meet all my SF needs.  So when I'm in the big city (Seattle), I go to the University Book Store on the UWashington campus.  I know there are other book stores in Seattle, but my time is usually limited.  Also in the past, I've had to cross the strait to get to Victoria, BC, Canada to get some SF authors not available in the states (used to be Iain Banks or Neal Asher- nowadays I can get 'em in the US).  Otherwise, I resort to Amazon, and the USPS rural carrier delivers right to my mailbox.  

 

Interesting website to help support your local bookshop.    http://www.IndieBound.org



Last Edited on: 9/7/09 1:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/7/2009 3:14 PM ET
Member Since: 4/18/2009
Posts: 1,376
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I remember Waldenbooks and B. Dalton. . . I liked having bookstores in malls, but mall rent is just too expensive and for some reason they didn't get enough traffic to stay afloat. They both got swallowed up by the larger chains.

 

I don't mind Barnes and Noble and Borders; I just wish they didn't zone so often. (Zoning is the process through which they pull older books that haven't sold off their shelves and send them back to the publisher to receive a partial refund.) I know they have to do it to make room for new books and keep making a profit, but it's a bit galling to go in and see the empty shelves when they've just gone through the SF section -- back when I worked there, I never zoned until I literally couldn't fit the new books in, figuring that the more books are on the shelf, the better. But I wasn't high enough up to know if there was a time limit for when the publisher would provide a partial refund; if there is I guess I can't blame them for trying to get the money.

Date Posted: 9/8/2009 1:22 AM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2008
Posts: 350
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All I have locally is one Barnes & Noble and one used book store. I subscribe to Locus magazine just so I know what's getting published and then I order via Amazon or put it on my wish list here. Our B&N doesn't seem to stock much SF on my list, and the one time I tried special order they screwed it up. They do stock more of the mysteries I like though, maybe my taste there is more mainstream.

Date Posted: 9/8/2009 9:20 PM ET
Member Since: 7/5/2007
Posts: 1,157
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Here in the Boston area, we have Pandemonium Books and Games, an all science fiction, fantasy, and gaming bookstore. 

There aren't nearly as many used book stores here as there were when I moved here 20 years ago, but the ones that are still around seem largely like they're here to stay... including the nation's oldest bookstore, the Brattle Book Shop. They don't, however, have a large science fiction section - they've told me that the profit margin on used science fiction books is too low to make it worth their while to have an extensive selection.

I've largely given up on chain bookstores, except for the rare occasions that I'm looking for mass market current books, or accessories like bookmarks and book themed gifts. While the Barnes and Noble store in Boston at the Prudential Center is really extremely pleasant, cheery and well lit with a cafe that smells enticing, they just don't have much that I want to buy to bring me there on a regular basis.

Aside from Paperbackswap, I have three sources of used books:

  • ABE Books - this site collects together the inventories of used book stores all over the world. It's truly superb for finding used books. Prices on rarer items are frequently much lower than on Amazon.
  • Powell's - The Portland giant is a great source of both new and used books, and I've been quite happy with their online store.
  • Amazon - They may be a beheamoth, but they have excellent customer service. I have had a couple occasions of buying a used book and not receiving it, and Amazon gave me a prompt and courteous refund.

Web sites such as ABE Books and Amazon have actually opened a large new market for used book stores. Now they can sell not only to their local market, but also to customers around the world. This type of market is available to many retailers of used items - indeed, we had a used record store in my neighborhood that closed its doors to the public but didn't go out of business: they were making such better profits selling online that they decided it was no longer worth it to them to maintain a retail storefront. This was sad in its way, but reflects a changing, rather than failing, market.

Also, I'm personally switching to ebooks for much of my reading. You'll find that Baen has a free library with an excellent selection of free ebooks, and also, you can buy many of their non-free books as ebooks. This includes many books which may not currently be in print. Also, some public libraries, including the Boston Public Library, have digital lending libraries, with which you may "check out" an ebook for your reading pleasure for a limited period (like, a month I think).

Subject: ebooks
Date Posted: 9/9/2009 9:20 PM ET
Member Since: 7/26/2006
Posts: 385
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ebooks - I like 'em!  Fortunately my on-line library (King County library, out of Seattle) has a really good selection of SF on-line.  I note that they haven't bought a lot of new books lately (I assume because of the economic climate).  And unfortunately, a lot of those books are audio books, whilst I prefer to read.  But, oh well, saves shelf space.

I had to jump through several hoops to get a library card for the King County library system, but it was worth it.

Powell's rocks!  I'd go broke if I lived in Portland......



Last Edited on: 9/9/09 9:22 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: Boston
Date Posted: 9/9/2009 9:58 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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Hey, MrsTomHl and I are going to be in Boston in about two weeks.  Is this Pandemonium Books and Games easily reached from the airport or the city center?  We won't be having a car.  From the website it appears to be more of a gaming store, but maybe that's just the website.

-Tom Hl.



Last Edited on: 9/9/09 10:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 9/11/2009 9:00 AM ET
Member Since: 6/26/2006
Posts: 6,633
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Tom, if you go to the Pandemonium web site there are public transit directions.  http://www.pandemoniumbooks.com/?cont=contact  It's on the red line in Cambridge.   

Date Posted: 9/11/2009 11:23 PM ET
Member Since: 7/5/2007
Posts: 1,157
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Tom H - Pandemonium is in Cambridge. Cambridge is easily accessible by public transit. Pandemonium is somewhere between the Central Square stop and the Harvard Square stop on the red line of the subway, and if you don't feel like walking, the #1 bus runs between them. Pandemonium has a web site, I'm sure Google can find it for you easily, and they're very friendly, so if you don't find the directions you need, just phone them.

If you need any restaurant recommendations etc, please message me privately. Enjoy your visit to Boston!

Subject: back from Boston
Date Posted: 9/27/2009 6:31 PM ET
Member Since: 3/25/2006
Posts: 723
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I've returned from a successful trip to Boston.  But unfortunately there wasn't time to take the T to Pandemonium.  Maybe next time...

-Tom Hl

Subject: San Diego
Date Posted: 12/4/2009 2:07 AM ET
Member Since: 1/1/2009
Posts: 16
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I'm lucky to be just a few blocks from Mysterious Galaxy where some of sci-fi and fantasy's best authors stop by on a regular basis. I spend far too much money there (most of my books on PBS are from their store).

Subject: Medford Oregon
Date Posted: 12/4/2009 2:55 AM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2009
Posts: 53
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I have Hq books, Village books,  & the Friends of the Library store here as wlll as 2 local book exchanges; we have a good selection in Talent, and also the Bookwagon in Ashland; along with book exchanges in Jacksonville, and Ashland and our local thrift stores; www.abebooks.com is also an excellent source of inexpensive books on line; (wow! we LOVE to read here !)

Date Posted: 12/4/2009 3:11 PM ET
Member Since: 9/3/2008
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Luckily our library has great used books 0.50 for paperback 1.00 hardback because we have no good used book stores around here.  By good I mean a good selection at 1/2 or less price.  But there's this place called the bookthing in baltimore where you can go and get FREE books.  Apparently it's a warehouse and they just give away books.  I actually heard about it from pbs.  I have been saving a bunch of books to donate to them when I finally get up there.  I hope it has a bunch of old/out of print scifi/fantasy.  It's only open on the weekends so it seems like I can never get a whole day to do it.  But I'm planning on January.  Has anyone been there?