While I adore the community feel and eco-friendliness of public libraries, and the shiny newness and convenience of large bookstores, my current happy medium is the independent used bookstore. And The Book Rack is one of those little gems I've walked by a million times but never paid much attention to until recently. I was surprised to learn that The Book Rack has roots dating back to the 1960s and is a network of independently owned bookstores, with about 100 stores across the country, including five locations in Massachusetts.
During a household purge a few months ago, Jon stopped by the The Book Rack in Arlington to trade in a stack of books. He received a bunch of credit on a paper slip and we figured we'd lose the slip or never remember to use it. But miraculously, this past weekend we decided to make a family outing to the store, remembered to bring the slip, and were thrilled to discover that the store recently went computerized (no more pesky slips!).
Policies differ from store to store, but in Arlington, you can trade in books for store credit and use the credit towards 50% of the price of any used title. The store also carries some new titles that you can purchase full price.
In addition to the new computerized system winning me over, the following things compelled me to write up The Book Rack:
1) The store is small but packed with inventory, so it was easy for Jon, Laurel, and me to browse our desired sections within close striking distance -- compared to libraries or bookstores, where we tend to not be able to browse simultaneously and someone invariably ends up bored, waiting for someone else.
2) The inventory is smaller than a bookstore or library, but it's actually nice in the sense that there's less overwhelm factor and you have a "curated collection" from which to choose. Meaning, the titles at the store are probably going to be pretty good because the store only wants to carry books that will sell.
3) As I was browsing, I overheard another customer make the point that she loves that there are always new titles at the store -- that often when she goes to the library they don't have the newest titles due to budget or demand. Good point, though I give props to the cashier, who agreed with that sentiment but also pointed out the awesomeness of our public libraries and that we're lucky to have inter-library loan in Massachusetts.
4) You don't need to remember to return books. (Library Elf saves me in this department, but still, returning books requires another errand...)
5) It's easier to take a chance on buying a book. For example, I was looking for some new fiction but I had no idea what to get. So I perused a bit and selected a book I had never heard of based on the good reviews on the cover (and the fact that I enjoyed reading the first couple of pages). The used price was $7, which made it $3.50 cash since we had store credit. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have purchased the book in this kind of carefree manner if I was paying the $14 new price in a regular bookstore.
6) If you trade in books and accumulate credit, it's a great bargain. We picked up five books this weekend and with our 50% credit usage, it only cost us about $10.
So if you're looking to do purge some old titles and pick up some new reading material, I highly recommend checking out The Book Rack. Nothing helps our little family sink into unwind mode better than curling up with a book!
Image credit: The Book Rack