Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Many thanks to Jenny for letting me know that the city of Long Beach is going to bulldoze Acres of Books to make way for yet another stupid shopping mall. Acres of Books is the largest used book store in California, and is one of the largest in the world. I've gotten dozens of hard-to-find books there, books I'd never have known about if I hadn't seen them on the shelf at Acres. I can't believe Long Beach could have let this treasure slip through their hands!

Used book stores are completely disappearing from American cities and the few that remain tend to favor the better quality books, the ones that have their original covers. That's a shame because some of the best and most hard to find old books survive only in coverless editions, and the lack of covers made the rare books affordable.

I'm always shocked when I hear people say, "You can find anything on the internet." No you can't! That's ridiculous! What you find on the internet is what the mass culture puts there. Not much that's select and special. The other day I searched for Rube Goldberg and found very,very little, and part of that was what I put up myself. Goldberg is one of the most original cartoonists ever, but you'd never know it from the net. When I wrote the blog about Blackstone I tried to look up something that would explain the theory of monarchy to me. No way. Look up monarchy and you'll turn up a lot of drivel about Princess Di. I could name dozens of examples like that!

Even libraries aren't very good at preserving the past. They have to make room for the latest best sellers. Used bookstores are vital custodians of the past, and their passing is a national catastrophe. Hooray for Ray Bradbury who took the trouble to try to do something about it!


Anonymous said...

youre right eddie, what I love about this blog is that its one of the few on the internet that is written by a real person from the real world rather than an "internet person", Roger Eberts Blog and of course John K's are other exceptions.

If you want to get more hits you really have to start writing articles about video games and anime

Bitter Animator said...

Isn't this the story in You've Got Mail? If you can make the mall owner fall in love with the used book store owner, everything will work out fine.

This is a shame. You're absolutely right about the internet have huge holes in what is available. It's a little like when things went to CD - a huge amount of albums never made the cut, didn't make the jump from vinyl and have vanished.

Old books are even harder to find, especially one one specialist subjects.

I also wonder about all the cartoons lost in magazines and newspapers, those that didn't get their own collections. Many probably totally forgotten about. For example, I love Embleton's work in Penthouse in the 70s. Wicked Wanda got a collection but what else? And there are probably thousands (more even) of artists works buried in some old magazines somewhere.

It's a shame really.

Liz said...

I love the used book store in my parent's town. (It is also the bus station.) I don't know how many hard to find books they have, but I ALWAYS come out of there with an arm full. It is sad to think about places like that disappearing.

Nick said...

I completely agree with you on the idea of how the internet is not where "you can find anything". It's not just the case with books and information as you said. I've had the same experience trying to find obscure or rare music on websites like Amazon and Play, where they're either not available or way too expensive, whereas in used record shops, they're dirt cheap.

While the internet is a great resource with acres of potential, it is often abused and houses a lot of erroneous information (wikipedia?). That's why written text should always exist as well, there should always be more than one source of information.

Anonymous said...

Eddie, did you hear or read of Bradburys statement in the past few months, that he thought Fahrenheit 451 was grossly misunderstood?

He didn't mean it to be a crusade against censorship, as much as he was saying television was teh suck.

What a crank he has become. One of the most Luddite of science fiction greats. A nostalgia merchant, not a futurist.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

J.R. Adams said...

I love used bookstores. There's something about them that, you know, new ones just can't do.

I like the 'feel' of 'em, so to speak.

pappy d said...

I love his description of the smell of used bookstores, "Egyptian incense". I wonder if there'll be another generation of book-fetishists.

I'm sure all those books will be available online somewhere but there's nothing like wandering around & discovering something for yourself. Amazon will make educated guesses about what they know you're interested in based on past purchases but I already know the books by my favorite authors, what I'm currently interested in & what opinions I presently hold.

I know it's my fault, too. I'd rather pay postage than drive to LB.

Trevor Thompson said...

It truly is to do with location if you're a used book store these days. But not in the way you might think.

An acquaintance of mine runs a used book store, literally two minutes from a Barnes and Noble. He says the only reason no one's come to put him out of business is because no one knows he's there.

He says if he were in a large, well-populated area, he'd have been bought out years ago.

- trevor.

Anonymous said...

I was poised to rant that a certain brilliant, forgotten movie, "The Gracie Allen Murder Case", will never again see light of day, until I found it for sale on for $18.95. I guess that showed me.

Kali Fontecchio said...

He's the one that hates you, right?

It is a sad, sad thing that book stores are vanishing.

Jessica Eiden Smedley said...

Sounds like you are in need of a visit up to Portland, Oregon to check out Powell's Books.

Book stores are a treasure. I'm sorry to hear about Acres. Sad, indeed. said...

I know how you feel- It's like when the big kids came and stole your ball on recess back in grade school. That's what we call progress in America. I guess the meaning of Fahrenheit 451 was lost in our rush to pave the whole world over with new stores we don't need. that's what we get for selling our souls in a buyers market.
I don't know about where you live, but in Cleveland, we still have library sales; it's not the best, but I find some good stuff once in a while.

Adam Tavares said...

Is it better to have everything indexed and searchable in a big online database and have it delivered to your door with a mouse click or to wander around aisles of old books in an unfamiliar place and to physically discover a great book? I don't know. They both have their perks.

I want to side with the physical experience because while it loses out in convenience it's much more satisfying. Sometimes things are too easy and we cheat ourselves out of a lot of fun. The Internet allows for that when it comes to consuming information. There's something to be said for sitting in a comfy chair and reading an old book. Or for me pulling out an old record and putting it on a turntable and dropping the needle into the groove. It's a ritual. It focuses you and makes the experience more memorable.

_ said...

ah, the passion for books is a good passion to have. hearing bradbury talk about downtown LA & its lack of bookstores...glad i don't live there.

boy, new york's great for books. especially the upper west side - books everywhere!

i don't live there either.

Wait! remembered another place. in mexico, part of the captial - the historic centre, called zocalo. i remember there was an entire street dedicated to bookstores - giant, vast, musty bookstores, with shelves reaching into the skies/tall ceilings, the kind of labyrinth type stores, the kind you need old wooden ladders to reach the book that caught your eye.

but i don't live there either.

Jenny Lerew said...

I'm glad you posted it Eddie. I'm very happy and glad I turned you onto it.

Funny(or maybe tragic)--I just posted about the great 20th Century Fox research library closing...what I write in my post applies here, and you know it well, to wit:

The internet isn't the be-all solution for information-at all. You CAN"T search the internet for a book you DON'T know exists! That's why a great crammed-to-the-roof used bookshop is so irreplaceable.

I've found many more wonderful books from randomly seeing them on a shelf than I ever have by someone writing just that title down for me and looking for it. Not to mention that even a resource like (which is a database of a lot of used booksellers) only has whatever those sellers take the trouble to upload into the database-far from all that is out there.

The internet's great, but there is nothing, nothing like the physical experience of being around thousands of old books. I know exactly what Bradbury is talking about--I used to just sit in the back at the old Larry Edmunds--especially when it rained--and inhale the smell. it was and is wonderful. It's magic.

And who cares if Ray Bradbury is "a futurist"?
I've always just thought of him as a writer which is how I suspect he thinks of himself. He's not Heinlein or Clarke, nor does he have to be. WTF is wrong with nostalgia when it's heartfelt genuine? Answer: not a damn thing. Each to his own, but there's a good reason he's still in print.
At his best Bradbury has a great imagination and is an elegant writer. Good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

I think the demise of the used bookstore gives me the same kinda melancholy feeling that I get when I see paper drawings vanish in favor of the Cintiq.


Anonymous said...

it really bothers me how easily "consensus" is made about art on the internet.

I cant count how many times Ive read extremely blatant value judgements on guys like Al Capp and Milt Gross on wikipedia and such.

If it wasnt for John K id still have preceptions like "rubber hose equals wonky and primitive" "chuck jones was the master of subtlety and the raised eyebrow while Tex Avery was all about random craziness, Clampett who???"

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: Very good point! How can you look up a book on the net if you don't even know that it exists!? Like you said, we need brick and mortar bookstores crammed to the rooftop with books we'd have never known about if we hadn't seen them sitting on a shelf.

A point I wish I'd made is that articles on the net, useful as they are, are no substitute for the kind of sustained argument you find in books. articles are short and we tend to read the ones that confirm what we already believe. Books have the power to change what we believe. They can even change our values.

Also, thanks for the article on the Fox library on your blog. I hope the books ended up in good hands.

William Wren said...


Gone said...

You make an interesting point as do many of the commenters. Surely we need both (internet & Bookstores)
to co-exist as they serve different purposes to different people and can be complimentary to each other. Also the internet doesnt exist in a fixed state in that it is adapting and changing with the volume of information increasing by the hour. Maybe it isnt too long before books are available in their entirety to read on line?

Ardy said...

Eddie, doesn't Ray Bradbury hate you? That was the title of one of your posts. And I remember only because it was the first post of yours I ever read (and it was hilarious).

Catoneo said...

Second hand books trade also needs a good dealer, able to sort mainstream futilities and interesting stuff.
Not so easy.
Bravo for your blog , Eddie.

Catoneo said...

About monarchy, may I suggest to go to the website of Pr Hans-Herman Hoppe where some truths are delivered under this title :
Democracy, the God That Failed.

Michael Lockridge said...

With the turning of the wheel of time, much is gained, and a great deal is lost. I think the loss of that tangible experiece of exploring a place of old books will grow rare, and perhaps even vanish.

The Internet is so very new. We have no idea what great things may come of it. Sufficient compensation for the losses? Not for those experiencing the loss. However, those who never knew of the experience will never sense the loss, or the lack.

How much of history is lost? Most of it. We just have bits and pieces.

You have given me much to think on, and write about.


Lester Hunt said...

It's very true that you can't find everything on the web. I had to search for over a year to find a copy of Unknown Mexico by Carl Lumholtz, a masterpiece in the literature of exploration (also ethnology). ... The fact remains though that the web was effective enough to drive all those wonderful used book stores out of business. (BTW that's where many of them went. Not into Valhalla, but into the internet.)

I.D.R.C. said...

I've been to ACRES OF BOOKS, and it is definitely the kind of place I hate to see disappear for another Jamba Juice. Or maybe a nice BORDERS.

Time marches on --and over.

One day there will be no reason to go anyplace, because every place will be just like anyplace else.

We need more things there's only one of, not less.

pappy d said...

We still have the Iliad Bookstore in No. Hollywood.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Jessica is so right- Powell's is amazing! You could spend a whole week there!

Anonymous said...

I have been going to Acres of books for over 20 years now, and it's been an education. At times, a dusty education, but an education nonetheless. I've loved this store's quirks, its turns and twists, the way you go in looking for something specific and come out with a stack of something completely different.

I stopped by Acres just this past week, and all sorts of heavy machinery was crowding the parking lot, gleefully bashing in the storefront next door. Although Acres isn't closing down 'til October, the hunger in the developer's eyes is palpable. We are losing more than just a historical landmark; we are losing a huge part of what makes this city human. It saddens and sickens me to think of the characterless, valueless, faceless "improvement" that will waste the corner of 3rd and Long Beach Boulevard in the future.

Clarity said...

Itis touching to find so many in support of old book stores. Although I'm in London, I was looking forward to visiting Acres of Books one day. It's reputation has travelled.

I hope that book lovers in the area can rally around to save it. If one doesn't try then there is nothing to be gained....

brooke said...

You are right, libraries don't preserve the past. I had a project on a very old book, and I couldn't find it ANYWHERE. Libraries, internet, nothing.

kathleen duey said...

I am sick and sad over Acres of Books. Independent bookstores selling both new and used books are a treasure and an endangered species. Many authors support the indies and I am no exception:
Buy books for them.Please. You will be rewarded with knowledgeable help and guidance from the staff.

I am often in need of books for historical and other research for my novels.
is a database that includes thousands of rare and used bookstores. You can search by title, author, and keywords. There is no lovely musty smell in the web-shop, but the books bring it with them when they come in the mail...

Lester Hunt said...

My favorite book buying destination is the twin cities of Nevada City and Grass Valley. As you can see here, it's really something. It's much better than Cambridge Mass, or Cambridge England for that matter. A Nevada City bookseller once said to me that he heard tell it's almost as good as Stillwater Minnesota (a gentrified historic village on the St. Croix). Well, I've been to Stillwater three times and Nevada City is much better.

Anonymous said...

Cool blog!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Everybody: Thanks for the Support for Acres of Books! I don't mean to make it sound like more than it is; most of the books are junk books, the kind of thing you'd find at thrift stores, and if you were looking for a specific title you'd probably be disappointed. Ah, but there's more to say...

As commenters pointed out, there are treasures among the junk books and, if you're flexible, you'll find bunches of fascinating books on subjects you didn't even know you were interested in until some author seduced you into it. It's the kind of store where you acquire new tastes.

Maggie May said...

i recently found the best used bookstore that smells sharply of urine and is run by an ancient lady
who sweetly gave me for FREE this amazing books published at the end of the 1800's that is a wreck but fabulous. i can't even read it because it's from netherlands but it's a gem.
we left with stacks of books. it's how i found the vice consul, which i loved.

Lydia said...

I LOVE used books! They're the only thing I can afford, first off, and besides- they have have so much more history and character.. I love purchasing as old of a book as I can find so that when my children (should I have any) may look at them fifty years from now and marvel at the 100 year old books I still possess.

Anonymous said...

It's a tragedy that another privately owned (and used) bookstore is closing down.
I love the smell of used bookstores and the feel of the books. This is something that the internet can't give you.
The internet is great, but it doesn't make for the best book buying experience/ splurge. When I'm buying books on the internet, it always seems like I have to know what I'm looking for and it's great for deals. But when I'm blue, I have to go to a used bookstore.
Sometimes it feels like book buyers and book stores are a dying race.

Unknown said...

I even hated to see the remaindered book store in Athens, GA, go out of business. They had a lot of junkfood books, but they also had out-of-print hardcover versions of various Great Works and things of random interest. Super cheap. I think I even got a hardcover Bradbury collection there for $1.99.

We need more of the unique and esoteric, not less.

Hey, used book stores are found all over here in Japan. Even chains, like "Book Off." Supposedly, there's a huge used book store in Tokyo but I think it's mostly full of textbooks. If I'm remembering my Tokyo guidebook correctly. Maybe I'll take a look next month when I go to the big city.

When you live in a foreign country, books in your native language become extra-precious. I was a huge reader before I moved here but now it's a... a thing with me!