If you never browse the used book racks at this excellent library, you’re missing out on high quality, discount summer reading. Here’s just some of what I noticed a few days ago:
Dead Poet Books closed last year, but as great as it was, it wasn’t the best spot in town to find cheap used books. It’s not the also-awesome Amber Unicorn, either, or any of the few other decent such stores.
It’s Savers, the thrift store. Yes, most thrift stores are full of junk and the used book section is a waste of time (I’m looking at you, Goodwill), but Savers gets the job done.
There’s a location near the school where I work, and I drop in sometimes to check in on the inventory. It rotates pretty quickly–a good sign. I could tell about plenty of great finds there, but here’s the most recent one:
Last week I went in with three things in mind: I’ve wanted to read Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth for years, but it’s long enough that I would want to own a copy so I could take my time. Ditto for James Michener’s Alaska, which I started three years ago and really liked, but couldn’t finish before I had to take it back to the library. Also, I’ve wanted to read Edward Rutherford’s London ever since it came out when I was in college. I’ve been keeping an eye out for good used copies of each for a long time, and they were all on my mind when I stopped in there last week. I decided ahead of time to buy a copy if I should see one of them.
They had all three. Six bucks well spent!
Here’s another example: a couple of years ago, when the Dragon Tattoo trilogy was super popular, I went looking for them in paperback for a friend. Found all three of those there, too.
Yes, it’s also full of Dean Koontz and John Grisham stuff, but the variety and quality of books there has never disappointed me.
Last week I was browsing in a thrift shop for used books. I spotted this old edition of Tess of the D’urbervilles, which is marked with a sticker for the low, low price of 75¢. Of course, that discount is actually a fifteen cent increase over the original cover price, which is clearly visible next to the sticker. Yes, folks, apparently this old book is worth more used than it was when it was new. That’s the economy for you.
The Barnes and Noble on South Maryland Parkway shut its doors earlier this year. That means that every major bookstore that was open in Las Vegas when I was in college, a mere fifteen years ago, is now closed.
The Borders on Sahara and Decatur, where I worked my freshman year, closed several years ago, just as the recession was starting. The space is still vacant.
When I was in high school, there was a little Barnes and Noble affiliate called Bookstar just down the street from it. They closed before I even graduated. It’s a linen shop now.
The Borders on Lake Mead and Rainbow opened while I was in college. They closed last year.
There used to be two bookstores in the Meadows Mall. Both are long since closed, that mall now bereft of books.
There are just two Barnes and Noble stores left to service all of Las Vegas. Both are in the same part of town: out west in the Summerlin area.
There is not, nor has there even been, a major bookstore in the northernmost part of the city, where I live. I remember a little independent one in the strip mall at Rancho and Craig, but that was as close as it got, and they closed before any of these others. A raggedy used book store on Ann closed a few years ago. Other than the Barnes and Noble I started off writing about, I don’t think the easternmost part of town has ever had a big bookstore, either.
There are, however, still several fine used book stores in Las Vegas. Thank goodness for that.
I own a mass market paperback copy of The Grapes of Wrath, but only because a teacher who was retiring a few years ago left it on a table in our work room with a note saying that his books were free for us to take.
I own a mass market paperback copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls, but only because I found it left on the floor after a meeting once, and nobody responded to my email asking the rightful owner to come pick it up.
I own a mass market paperback copy of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, but only because I bought it a year before Oprah picked it for her book club, after which it has only been available as a more costly trade paperback.
That last one, I think, is the key to understanding why so many great classics are no longer available in mass market paperback and, indeed, haven’t been for some years. The cheap, durable, accessible mass market paperback started going the way of the dodo, as I recall, in the mid nineties, just as things like $5 cappuccinos at Starbucks were becoming trendy. See where I’m going with this? As our society’s appetite for overpriced luxuries reached its fever pitch, we also acquired a tolerance–even a demand–for fancy, expensive versions of things that had previously been more common and affordable.
Try this: go to Amazon.com and search for “Sound and the Fury mass market paperback.” Look at the years next to the entries that come up. Sad. Continue reading