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Indie Bookstores Thrive


Publisher Weekly has an article about Green Apple Books in my own backyard on how bookstores survive in the Age of Amazon. Green Apple Books to San Francisco is like Powell Books to Portland. When I’m looking for hard-to-find, obscure used or out-of-print books, Green Apple is the first place off the top of my head. One of Green Apple’s co-owners, Pete Mulvihill, offers up his opinion on how they and other indie bookstores survive—or rather thrive—in the age of Amazon.

“Indie bookstores offer community, discovery, and beauty; readers feel good about keeping their hard-earned money recirculating in their local communities; and many people value the ‘third place’ enough to put their money where their mouths are.” I don’t live in the midwest where your nearest neighborhood is a mile away and where big box store is the fulfillment of shopping. I walk; I bike; I shop local. I must be living in the old times where printed word was more valued. I think e-books and printed word could co-exist, therefore independent bookstores could co-exist with Amazon. As long as there are readers who like to browse and interact, bookstores still have their niche and will thrive.

My affair with Green Apple began in high school. Like many teenagers, I had limited allowance and I had limited budget on books—even used ones. That’s when I discovered Green Apple in the quiet Richmond District, a diverse neighborhood that includes Chinese-American residents and Irish bars. Every weekend I stopped there and browsed for as long as I was free. I got some of my novels and mysteries for at least half the cover prices. Two doors down from the main store is the fiction and music annex. For as long as I can remember, customers are so diverse that they represent a slice of the city. They range from families who drop their kids off, to Asians, to geeks, to little old ladies buying paperback mysteries, and the collectors. They like the sense of discovery and serendipity at the store, and I find Green Apple a beautiful place.

Book Bloggers’ Visit, with Pictures

Dim sum (small Chinese plates) was one thing we would do for sure when Steph first e-mailed me about their upcoming trip to San Francisco. Nashville has three Chinese restaurants but only one serves dim sums. On Sunday, I took Steph and Tony, and my friend Rick to Great Eastern in Chinatown for a sumptuous meal of dim sum. Most locals will tell you that the best dim sums are in the suburbs, Great Eastern, just a stone’s throw from their hotel, is a better bargain in the heart of Chinatown with comfortable seats and sans screaming children running berserk. Steph and Tony left the ordering to me, which, on top of the usual fares of har gau and siu mai, include steamed rice noodle cakes, water chestnut cakes, steamed custard bun, pork bun, and pan-fried rice noodles in a special XO sauce (which was worth the 20-minute wait).

Green Apple Books in the Richmond was our next stop. The atmosphere of neighborhood bookstore—its creaky floor, stuffed ceiling-to-floor shelves and the great bargains on new books gripped Steph and Tony as soon as we walked into the main store. Like almost any indies here, Green Apple has a character and neighborhood relevant. While Tony took pictures around the store, Steph would ask him whether she should buy this book and make inquiry of her inventory at home. The Steph who claimed “I have no self-control” totally surfaces at the exciting selection of Green Apple especially the international/foreign literature.

Steph ponders at her pile of loots. Paul Auster, Virginia Woolf, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Yiyun Li, and more!

At the realization that they are only  allowed two carry-on pieces, they decided to buy and ship home the whole pile that Steph is seen pondering at in the picture, plus another bag full of books from the annex next door. Tony also got himself a Green Apple t-shirt with a propos message “So many books, so little time.”

Steph, Tony, and I posing in front of the heavily discounted new books at Green Apple.

Readers browsing. How could you ever have enough time for all these books?

It was almost three hours later when we finished browsing the A to Z used fiction at the annex. Just the fiction only. Then we were off to one of the hidden spots that was not Twin Peaks but where you could see a panoramic view of the city.

Too bad bloggers on boozes were not captured in pictures. But it was so much fun to have met Steph and Tony and to show them my secrets of the city. I hope they enjoyed their trip in San Francisco and can’t wait to see them again, in Nashville and Toronto.

Love Your Local Bookstores, a Monday Musing

musingmondays1How many bookstores do you frequent? Do you have a favourite? If so, which one and what makes it so?

I have talked about local bookstores in a previous Monday musing post and described my vision of a bookstore. For this week’s answer, I will discuss in depth the two bookstores which I most frequently visit.

Books Inc. is one of the oldest independent booksellers on the west coast. Selection at Books Inc. caters toward individual neighborhood and their character. The one across the street from where I have coffee in the morning specializes in gay and lesbian literature and fiction, although I also recommend its biography and travel sections. Its Laurel Village store offers the most titles in fiction and literature, making it a perfect stop for bookclub ideas. Aside from the friendly and book-savvy staff, whose recommendations written on index cards I follow with scrupulousness, Books Inc. hots a “buy 10, get 1 book free” Frequent Reader Club.

greenappleGreen Apple Books on 6th and Clement in the Richmond district is the used book emporium. The main store is what readers and bibliophiles call a book haven. Get lost in rabbit warren of books in all subject areas that extend up to the mezzanine. Every inch of space here is devoted to the encouragement of reading. Tiny cardboards full of staff recommendation and reading notes dangle on shelves like conversation bubbles. The annex a few doors down the block houses fiction and literature titles. I always go check out the discount new book table for heavily discount titles.

Favorite Bookstores

Today’s question: Favorite bookstores. What’s your favorite bookstore? Is it an online store or a bricks-and-mortar store? How often do you go book shopping? Is your favorite bookstore (or bookstores) listed as a favorite in LT? Do you attend events at local bookstores? Do you use LT to find events?

Graced with so many independent, neighborhood bookstores, I cannot say I have a favorite bookstore in San Francisco. I try to stop by these bookstores when I’m in the neighborhood. The one that I’ve been going since I moved here twenty years ago is Green Apple Books in the Richmond on Clement and 6th. This is the ultimate mecca for bibliophiles. The main store houses books in all subject areas except for fiction and literature, which along with DVDs and music CDs are located in the annex two doors down. I always end up leaving this bookstore with a bag full of books even I’m not really looking, or going through my list. They have the best selections in fiction and literature, regardless of if the titles are obscure, rare, or out-of-print. I usually do trade and buy books with store credits. Immediately to the left of the door at the main store is a shelf full of recently arrived used books. I always make sure that I have a once-over this section, grabbing hot new reads before heading to the sale table tables, on which new titles, both fiction and nonfiction, are heavily marked down to as much as 30% the original price. Green Apple is truly a no-frill and friendly haven for book lovers. Mezzanine level has the special green room where all history titles are shelved. This whole place is full of canyons and nooks of books, steered by handwritten signs designating all the subject areas. I can spend literally hours browsing through the warrens of shelves.

I’m always shopping for books, out of the convenience of the bookstores’ location. Aside from Green Apple, Book Incs in the Castro (where I have coffee in the morning) and on Van Ness (where Opera Plaza is) are always close by. Bibliohead in the Hayes Valley is a cute little shop with great selection of fiction and prints. I always stop by there when I crave for the Argentinian cookie at Cafe Tartine next door. Tugged in the Noe Valley is Phoenix Books. On Valenica and 20th is the cutely named Dog-Eared Books. City Lights in North Beach separates European fiction from the American ones, and they have a shelf especially for Penguin/Oxford/Everyman Classics. Borders, which strategically locate in downtown at Union Square and at the mall, is on the way home so I always go in and take a peek. As for the events, I have never attended a bookstore event although I have been a regular to the brown-bag lunch series on campus at the university library.

Further Reading
Booking Through Vacation Spots Bookstores Overseas
Bookstores in Hong Kong
Book Buying Behavior

Green Apple & Reading Challenge Update

The decongestant has knocked me out the past couple days. Fits of coughing hurts my rib cage. I’ve been coughing hacking out my lungs. The good news is, coughing has mitigated this morning–I can slowly and gingerly swing my feet, one at a time, to the side of the bed, and get up without hurting my rib. I met my friends at Cafe Flore for some light breakfast and headed out to Green Apples to look for some books. I found Rough Music by UK author Patrick Gale, whom I found has no distributor in the United States. That’s a stroke of luck. Green Apple also has an used copy of Music Room in excellent condition by Dennis McFarland, whose latest Letter From Point Clear I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m also compiling a list of books for the upcoming 24 Hour Read-a-Thon, hosted by Dewey at The Hidden Side of A Leaf. That I’ll be away from home that weekend means I’ll have to bring a stack of books that are for sure page-turning. I’m asking for ideas from all of you. I’m digging more Dennis McFarland, Joanne Harris, Shirley Abbott, along with at least one book by Jane Austen, a biography, a Man Booker Challenge book, and a Russian Challenge book.

Challenge Progress
Russian Reading Challenge: 4/4
This challenge continues until the end of the year. I have completed the challenge but will continue reading more Russian novels, including another reading of The Master and Margarita, which I’ll discuss with my class next month. Sharon is very lenient in the number of books required because many Russian novels are lengthy and requires much withdrawal to digest.

Man Booker Reading Challenge: 3/6
This challenge also runs all of 2008. I read all three books: A Month in the Country, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, and The Gathering in March and April when I was in Hong Kong. Three more to go.

I have to work on the Chunkster Challenge and am contemplating the Southern Reading Challenge.