Posts Tagged ‘north olmstead’

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.