Goodbye, Book Baron
An Orange County, California landmark is on the way out.
Anaheim’s Book Baron, currently in the midst of a huge liquidation sale, will close its doors sometime in the next couple of weeks. Opened by Bob and Lois Weinstein on January 2, 1980, the store housed more than 500,000 volumes at its peak, and was always a great local place to lose a few hours browsing and ruminating.
The used book business has changed dramatically due to the rise of internet selling, both by dealers and individuals (who now are as apt to list their unwanted tomes on eBay as thy are to drive them to a used bookstore). Websites such as abebooks.com and bookfinder.com now bring the antiquarian inventory of thousands of worldwide stores right to your computer screen, and new hardcovers can be had for deep discounts at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. I have to admit my book buying habits have changed.
For example, it’s obviously more convenient to upgrade my WPA Guide collection via the web than to venture across the country to the Complete Traveler in New York City, despite their vast inventory and the wonderful conversations I’ve had with owner Arnold Greenberg. But is it better?
Nothing can replace the sense of discovery you experience when you come across a long-sought volume on a high, dusty shelf or locked in a glass case, or the learning that ensues when a knowledgeable staffer discerns one of your interests and introduces you to an author you should have been reading all along.
So good-bye Book Baron, but God bless the antiquarians contrarian enough to fight back the tide of closure to keep their doors open and their staffs intact. Huzzahs to Powell’s Books in Portland and The Strand in Lower Manhatten, to Bookfellows/Mystery & Imagination and Brand Books in the heart of Los Angeles, to Peter Howard’s Serendipity Books in Berkeley and to Larry McMurtry’s very own Booked Up in Archer City, Texas. I hope to browse your shelves soon, and for years to come!