On Sunday, July 7, while on a family vacation in Estes Park, Colorado, we drove down the mountain (3,000 feet of elevation change in 20 miles) and into Boulder for the day. Our destination was downtown, Pearl Street, and there we found the Boulder Book Store.
You know how every suburban Barnes & Noble is laid out the same way — as predictable as an Applebee’s?
The Boulder Book Store isn’t like that.
Their three-story building is filled with nooks and crannies, with surprises around every corner. Some spaces were small with low ceilings. One room, with a vaulted ceiling, was big and dramatic. There were at least two staircases, and several half-floors. I succeeding in getting lost — the hallmark of a fine book store.
When I found my wife I said, “If this bookstore was in your town, you’d never need Amazon.”
The BBS book assortment was deep and varied, with a large used-book section. My wife bought one book for herself and two for our 12-year-old daughter.
I didn’t buy a book, but my annual quest for a t-shirt with local flavor was satisfied by the shirt I’m wearing today (below): BBS calls it Tatoo Willie (it’s William Shakespeare with tatoos). I purchased a book at a small book store located one block away, Trident Booksellers and Cafe. (I paid $12 for a used, hardcover copy of Theodore Rex, which is volume two of Edmund Morris’s three-volume biography of Teddy Roosevelt; I read volume one last winter).
BBS had dozens of t-shirt designs, many of them “retired” and adorning torso-only mannequins that sat on top of shelves, lined up like trophy bucks at a Cabela’s. The shirts bore the names of authors and books: for example, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. They’re designs that book-lovers and English majors can’t resist purchasing.
The customer checking out in front of me told the clerk she was a “Reader’s Guild” member. I went online to find out what the “Reader’s Guild” is:
Purchase a one-year membership ($12.50), then each time you buy a book, simply give us your phone number, and you’ll automatically receive a 10% discount on everything in the store (periodicals are excepted). The discount is 15% off the already low price of used and sale books. Readers Guild members also receive access to reserved seating at events, exclusive sales, and seasonal gifts!
Beats the heck out of Amazon Prime.
If the Boulder Book Store was in Owatonna, I’d visit several times a week. My father-in-law last week speculated that, with the “big box” book stores disappearing, independent book stores could enjoy a resurgence. I hope so. But if all independent book stores were like the Boulder Book Store, it wouldn’t matter what the big boxes were doing.