Archive for the ‘Book Stores’ Category

Half Price Books and Borders Outlet – North Olmstead

August 19, 2009

Finishing up the reviews for North Olmstead bookstores today.  Despite my largely negative review for The Book Rack in North Olmstead, I have to say that the town itself is impressive for the bookstores it harbors. It’s on the outskirts of Cleveland, close enough to drive to but far enough away to have its own identity. My g/f and I went to a japanese steak house for dinner (Dasaki?) and were seated with a group of four who were celebrating one couple’s twelve year anniversary and these were the most “like” the people I am used to being around than anyone since I have moved to Cleveland. Maybe that means they were just “small townish” compared to the cleveland-ites, and this isn’t a knock on the people of Cleveland, but they were people I was familiar.  What impressed me the most about North Olmstead was the sheer volume of bookstores – used and new – and how tightly they were packed together. Within a five minute drive of eachother were three used/outlet bookstres (two literally across the street from eachother) and a mall with a walden books. Not only were there two used bookstores, and I had significant problems with one, but they were both well stocked.

The Half Price Books in North Olmstead was, for all intents and purposes, a clone of the one I reviewed in Cleveland Heights. And this is not a bad thing. Everything the one store got right, this one also got right. From cleanliness to pricing to organization to lighting to everything else – Half Price Books in North Olmstead is a wonderful used bookstore. The strengths of it being a chain store are evident. It is clearly that the corporation sets forth some clearly defined standards and is sure that its stores comply with them. Their clearance racks are impressive, their help is good and their pricing is fair. If there is a Half Price Books near you, or if you see one while travelling, don’t hesitate to stop. Outside of some bizaar outlier, like a crazy woman ransacking the store or turkeys being thrown from a helicopter, you will be able to shop for affordable books in a nice environment.

The Borders Outlet (right across the street from Half Price Books) was something that piqued my curiosity.  Anyone familiar with the Borders chain knows that they have massive clearance racks within their stores so I was curious what exactly could be sent to a Borders Outlet. The answer is pretty much what you see on the clearance and discount racks at your every day Borders. The same essential cookbooks, the same helping of fiction books that didn’t sell, the same anthologies and assorted non-fiction books and kids books.  It’s not a place where you’re going to come across a great find or anything. But, if you don’t have a regular Borders nearby, I can see how the Borders Outlet would have some appeal. What it lacks in selection, the store was rather spartan and occupied a space far larger than it currently needs, it makes up for with cleanliness and presentation. If you’re going out on an earnest bookhunt, it’s not something to go out of the way for. But if you have thirty minutes and want to just browse some cheap books, it’s not a bad place to stop.

As a whole, North Olmstead is a bookshoppers paradise. Even if you don’t necessarily like the setup of a store or two, the stores are still there and you can find some great bargains (my g/f and I each spent around $10 on the day and we each brought home 4-7 books).  We didn’t get around the whole town but the only thing North Olmstead appears to lack is a big bookstore along the lines of a full fledged Borders or Barnes and Noble. But they do have a Walden Books in the mall and there’s always the internet.  Another big plus for North Olmstead is that all of this shopping is within minutes of the interstate.  We got off at our exit and the mall was right there, along with Borders Outlet and Half Price Books while the Book Rack was a very short drive to, essentially, the other side of the mall. So if you’re travelling through the area and looking for a quick book splurge, plan ahead, print off some maps of the area and it’s an easy way to kill a few hours and hit numerous stores.


The Book Rack – North Olmstead

August 17, 2009

Holy Bad Bookstores Batman!

Maybe I’ve been pampered with very well set up and organized used bookstores – even when said bookstores are in less than ideal locations. The Novel Idea and Frogtown Books in Toledo, Ohio are crown jewels of used bookstores. The Book Abbey of Adrian, Mi – opened by a former employee of Novel Idea and whose influence is clear in her own store – is wonderful. Even the little book shop in Tecumseh, whose name I forget and who is in a less than fantastic space, is very well organized, lighted and clean. Looking through the books and finding what you want is easy. The prices are fair. And the experience enjoyable.

None of these things can be said for The Book Rack. the lighting was mediocre, the aisles cluttered and the shelves were incomrehensible. After wandering among the shelves for thirty minutes I am still not entirely sure how they choose to organize their store. Since one section specifically said “Recently Alphabatized,” I’m guessing that this marvel of a system for organization hasn’t been employed before and they were warning their regular customers, if they exist, that they may actually be able to find something with ease for a change.

Looking past the near impossibility of finding what you are looking for on the shelves, the space itself is cramped. They clearly try to cram too many books into too small a space. Part of this, understandably, is simply economics. Space costs money so sometimes you only have what you have and you make the best of it. But treating the store like an abused storage shed isn’t necessarily the best way to display your wares. Sometimes you may just have to face facts – you can’t display everything.

They do get credit for having their prices easy to find, stamped on the inside front cover or first page. But there’s also the problem – they’re stamped. It might be a small thing but it’s ugly as all hell. And they have no set pricing system so there’s no telling what one book will be priced compared to another. Their website claims their pricing is half off the cover but this store doesn’t follow it. 

The Book Rack’s website says they are a “national cooperative of used book stores.” I would suggest they work more cooperatively and set some standards for their “cooperative.” For the North Olmstead store in particular, with what appears to be an impressive inventory to make for a compelling little bookstore, I would suggest closing shop for a week, taking everything down and just re-organizing the store. Tidy it up. Re-organize. Maybe install some new lights. The work would be a hassle. It would be tedious. But I think it could do a world of good for the little store.

Half Price Books in Mayfield Hts – Store Review –

August 13, 2009

Yesterday my girlfriend and I were out and about and looking for a cheap place to buy some books. So we made the drive up to Mayfield Hts to check out the Half Price Books up there and see if we couldn’t finish shopping for her school books and pick up some stuff for ourselves.

For anyone not familiar with Half Price Books, it’s a national chain that deals in used books, movies and music. If you’re looking at paperbacks, the general rule is that they will be half off the cover price while the hardcover books are discounted a bit more steeply. They also have various clearance racks and special savings nooks where they have placed books they want to move a bit quicker or just get out of the store.

If you’re looking to sell them some of your old books or whatever the process appears to be pretty simple. You take your stuff to the appropriate counter (in this case, it was against the right wall when you walk in), someone looks it over and makes a cash offer which you can either take and go or put towards future purposes at the store.  I haven’t went to sell any books to them, so I can’t say exactly how fair their system is, but it seems straightforward enough.

Looking at books is easy and enjoyable. Aisles are wide, the place is very well lit, and it is very well organized. It’s a large chain store and it’s maintained that way. If you’re a fan of little “mom and pop” used book stores with musty smells of old books lining beaten shelves, this is not the place for you. If you want a (much) cheaper alternative to Borders and want to keep the nice “big store” amenities, you’re built for this place.

Getting to the store in Mayfield Hts is incredibly simple. If you’re coming from the east, just get on Mayfield Rd and keep going. If you’re coming from the south, all you have to do is hop on 271 and get off on Mayfield Rd. exit. It’s right off 271 on the southside of the road in a large shopping plaze with many other fun stores and a handful of places to eat. It could be an easy place to make a day of it.

Half Price Books

Mac’s Backs Paperbacks – Store Review

August 2, 2009

I’ve finally had the opportunity to get out and look at one of the used book stores in cleveland. It’s a little place called Mac’s. The lady working there was nice and helpful. Oddly enough, for a small bookstore, I get the impression that she may not have been either an owner or a long time employee. This isn’t a bad thing, just sort of odd in face of my prior experiences with little used bookstores.

On the plus side is a very solid selection for such a small store. It’s not even close to being the largest used bookstore I’ve been in but they do a good job of hitting pretty much every major author you could want, especially newer authors. They also have a commendable selection of children’s books, something more appreciated by me since I’ve started going around with a 5 yr old in tow.

The selection also leads to a bit of a negative – the pricing. The reason they have so many newer authors is that they have, well, new books mixed in with the old books. This is annoying in that you walk down an aisle and you see something and think you have a nice little find, only to pull it out and see the thing is fullpriced. For some paying fullprice for a book is no big deal. For me, considering I’m looking through a usedbookstore and won’t shop from borders unless I have a nice sized coupon, it’s a bit of a roadblock. But it’s not a huge deal.

what’s a bigger pain in the butt is that they have three or four different pricing methods. I’ve seen pretty much every pricing method. from prices written in the corner of the first page, to little stickers to big stickers to just prices posted on a wall.  For some reason this little store tried an “all of the above” approach.  So be prepared to look for prices.

All in all, not a bad shop. If you’re in cleveland, check it out.

Mac’s Backs Paperbacks

Bookstore Review: Encore Books

February 4, 2009

Recently had the opportunity to check out another useed bookstore in Toledo, Ohio. It’s called Encore Books and it’s off Heatherdowns in a little strip mall that is most widely known as the former home of House of Golf.  On the exterior, it’s pretty easy to find and the parking is ample since the strip mall is fairly small  (in other words, there isn’t much else around there that would draw a lot of people).

Upon entering the store you are greeted by a familiar site at used bookstores: piles of books everywhere. Here the problem is compounded a bit by the fact that the space itself isn’t exceptionally large. the combination of a lack of actual space with how space intensive a bookstore is (those things take up an unexpectedly large amount of room very quickly), makes the space allowed for walking seem very very tiny. At the time I was in there with my girlf friend there was just one other couple in the store and we still ran into eachother a few times.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad or uncommon thing. Unless you happen to wander into a used bookstore that is fairly well established within a community, which usually means it does a fair amount of business to have stayed in business longer than five years, I have found most used bookstores to be a bit on the cramped side.

Unfortunately, the tiny space was further hindered by a somewhat haphazard organization. The fiction was in two spots and the floor space was somewhat haphazardly divided up with standing racks and shelves.  Looking at the various racks and stands, I think they were put up from a feeling of necessity – the nature of a used bookstore results in a crapshoot assortment of whatever people bring in. However, some of these might have been better off left in the box rather than forced onto a shelf.

The selection itself was fair. They had a lot of the expected stuff from Grisham to King to Rice, etc.  Oddly enough their scifi/horror racks seemed quite a bit larger than the rest of the genres/literature. And there were very few of the larger format paperbacks that have come to dominate conventional fiction publishing. This is also means that you’re less likely to find that new work of fiction that’s been in paperback for just a few months. You might luck out and find it, but I think it’s unlikely at this store.

It also runs into what has become a pretty common irritant for me: variable pricing. I still don’t understand why all used bookstores, especially if they aren’t dealing in rare/collectible books, don’t move to a set pricing scheme. It makes it easier on the customers and easier on the people who work there.  there’s just no sense in going through and individually pricing a bunch of john grisham paperbacks.

In the end, it’s not a bad little store. If you have the time, and you’re in the area, you may as well check it out and see if you can’t find a deal. However, if you’re looking for something specific and/or new, I think you’d have better luck trying a couple of the other used bookstores in the area.


Encore Books

4400 Heatherdowns Blvd # 5
Toledo, OH 43614
(419) 389-1155

That Used Bookstore

January 14, 2009

To do my holiday shopping I decided to swing through the small town of Tecumseh, Michigan and roam around the downtown for a day in search of some small, personalized gifts.  It one of those quintessential small American towns with an assortment of little shops that seem to crop up in every small town but with minor variations that make it “their own.”

Amid a handful of little restaurants (I ate at The Cowboy Grill – the people were nice, the service good and the food hot) there were the obligatory antique shops and a couple of pubs. Instead of a toy shop there was a “hobby shop” which sold nearly every model of car, boat and plane you could want and a number you would also have to be able to afford. Instead of a candy shop, there were two wine stores. One just sold some wine and cheeses and the like while the other was an actual small winery.

What surprised me was That Used Bookstore. Used bookstores aren’t exactly profitable ventures. To put it kindly, they usually struggle to make ends meet. One used bookstore owner I know has talked of losing money the first six years she was in business. And this was in her seventh year. Simply put, it’s hard to make money when your costumers are people who are too poor (or, in my case, cheap AND poor) to buy the stuff new. Knowing this, I was a bit surprised to find this shop in the small town of Tecumseh.

I was in even more surprised to see how well stocked it was. I walked away with books by Arthur Nersesian, Robert Olmstead, Thomas McGuane and a couple of others. They had the usual assortment of Grishams, Clancy’s, Rice’s and King’s, just as any used bookstore does. But they also had a wide variety.

One of the negatives of the store is the lack of a clear price structure. What I have seen most often is a simple sign hung somewhere giving a price for all paperbacks, usually somewhere between $2-4. Instead, the prices are written in pencil on the first page in the upper right corner, though I did come across a couple of books with no price information.  I don’t buy to collect, I buy to read, and I never feel like spending $4 for a sci-fi paperback from 1965.  The prices weren’t bad, though. If anything, I would rate them as fair, usually very close to about half the cover price on the paperbacks. 

Apparently, That Used Bookstore is also associated with another bookstore called The Bookery, though the website is a bit vague on this relationship. It says merely that the “brick and mortar” store now houses both stores, but I never noticed moving from one store to the other when I was there.  Regardless, if you find yourself in Tecumseh, Michigan, give That Used Bookstore a look. The owner is nice and there is a fair chance you will find an unexpected treasure on their shelves.

That Used Bookstore