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philly bookstores, Christmas 2010

Bauman's Rare Books has left Walnut Street but still operates out of New York City. Larry Robin's has used books and speaking events but no longer carries new titles. Book Trader finally chased Big Jar off of Second Street, and the latter now operates a smaller store at the corner of 4th and Bainbridge. The Liberty Place Borders Express has been closed for months now, and the bookstore in the basement of the Bourse is long gone, closed down before I left Philly if I'm not mistaken. Skip at Giovanni's Room described holiday traffic as "slow," but he's open and would welcome a visit.

On the brighter side, as in, if there are bookstores in Philadelphia, there are likely more readers, jobs, etc., the chains I went into were bustling. Both Barnes and Noble and Borders downtown seemed to be moving plenty of "product," as in books, gift cards, games, etc. Joseph A. Fox on Sansom was quite busy too on the Tuesday afternoon before Christmas. Likewise, the Borders in Wynnewood had a long line of patrons waiting to purchase as part of Christmas-Eve routine. (It was tempting to stand outside and hawk discount copies of Fight for Your Long Day, but I resisted such extremes.)

In University City, House of Our Own and the Pennsylvania Bookstore, along with their own friendly deathstar neighbor, the University of Pennsylvania Barnes and Noble, are all open and selling new books, textbooks, and more. House of Our Own made my week because they are the first Philadelphia store to order, stock, and display Fight for Your Long Day. It was good to see familiar smiles in both of the independent locations. (When I grew up in University City, the bookstore scene was up on 38th Street, centered between Walnut and Locust, and you could move quickly from Pennsylvania Book Center to Encore Books to an older, smaller Penn Bookstore. House of Our Own came later, and there were also occasional attempts to book further west, such as Lame Duck Books on 45th Street, on the same side between Locust and Chestnut where used-everything Second Mile thrives today.)

And best of all, where I least remembered it, two underground bookstores in the Gallery seemed to be going strong or at least be ongoing. A Books-A-Million, a chain I associate with the Southeastern region has replaced what was a Walden's and then a Borders Book Express in the Gallery's basement, about where the main, middle escalator descends to a section of kiosks, some plants, and a newstand. And if you walk east toward the 8th and Market Elevated Blue Line stop, you'll see an African American bookstore, Basic Black Books, that looks like a lot of fun--positively an exciting place to book!

I may come back to this post and correct some of the details on names and dates. Feel free to drop me a line for adds or corrections if you like. OK, feel free to return to your Christmas kindle. Peace.

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