As local and specialty shops for selling books have been eliminated, first by the large chains and then by the online giants, like Amazon, there remains only a few spots to be able to enjoy physically browsing books. Since the loss of Borders, I’ve even been sad to see many of the Barnes & Noble locations shut their doors. I feel that in losing bookstores, communities lose more than just a place to purchase books. Many of the shops also provide public and community services and a meeting place for cultural gatherings.
I have fond memories of going to Cody’s Books from back in my college days, usually stopping there to hangout or browse several nights a week on my way home. Just passing through Cody’s was inspiring and it provided learning opportunities on far more than just literature. They were a part of the community and even sheltered student protesters escaping attack and tear gas during the Vietnam War years in Berkeley. Despite having moved back to So Cal, I was crushed to hear about its closing a few years ago.
I had a similar experience while living in Santa Monica, where I was able to enjoy several rare bookshops that existed before the larger chains moved in. Midnight Special had become my new Cody’s-like hangout, but they had to shut down once Barnes & Nobles and Borders moved onto the Third Street Promenade. Arcana was another source for finding and browsing specialty art books, but even they have now had to relocate to the Helms Bakery District of Culver City. Only art and architecture bookstore, Hennessey + Ingalls has managed to remain just off the Promenade, along with Barnes & Noble on the corner, but I keep my fingers crossed that both of them will be able to endure.
The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA is more than just a bookstore, more than a record shop or even a café. It’s a neighborhood anchor and gathering place, as well as an event venue for the independent art, music, theater and DIY community. Recently it has hosted such events as the LA Zine Fest, music performances, like Hybrid Mechanics, and peer-to-peer teaching workshops, like Skillshare, as well as book signings, poetry readings and open mics. They buy and sell used books, and while they may not have everything, I am making an attempt to check there first before going to the larger chains or buying new items. The location is a great place to spend time reading, browsing books and music, relaxing in the café or attending one of it’s numerous (almost daily) events. I’ve also found some great reads that would have been much more costly to source through even Amazon. However it is that they make enough business to survive, I want to try and support this rare remaining bastion of community commons and literature.
A few of the LA and specialty bookshops mentioned:
The Last Bookstore: http://lastbookstorela.com/
Arcana art bookstore: http://www.arcanabooks.com/
Assouline (publisher) bookstore: http://www.assouline.com/south-coast-plaza.html
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
Cody’s Books Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cody’s_Books
Hennessey + Ingalls art & architecture bookstore: http://www.hennesseyingalls.com/
Midnight Special bookstore article: http://www.smdp.com/pdf/071002.pdf
Samuel French theater and film specialty bookstores: http://www.samuelfrench.com/store/our_locations.php
Taschen (publisher) bookstores at the Farmers Market: http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/stores/17375.store_hollywood.1.htm
& Beverly Hills: http://www.taschen.com/pages/en/stores/415.store_beverly_hills.1.htm
Zine Fest: http://lazinefest.com/