Bookstore Tour: The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

Bookstore Tour: The Last Bookstore, Downtown Los Angeles

I haven’t done a bookstore tour in a really long time. I think I was still living in Brooklyn where small bookstores reign gloriously. But I went on vacation and did some road tripping recently and I have bookstores to report back!

Today we’re going to be heading to the West (best) Coast to check out The Last Bookstore in Downtown LA. If you’re not aware, The Last Bookstore is probably one of the most instagrammed bookstores. The reason: because this store is outfitted with artsy bookish displays for you and your friends to pose next to.

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My First Amazon Books Experience

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I was walking to the train the other day from a bridal shower my sister threw for me. The shower was a great time and we walked around and looked at expensive clothes I can never be able to afford.

And as I was making my way down to the train station, I walked across the Amazon Bookstore that recently opened. Oh whoa, this thing is already open? I asked myself as I moseyed to the front door. A security guard open the door for me and I entered the space. Of course I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to check out a major brand’s bookstore. I’ve been buying books with Amazon since Amazon was only about books, but now that Amazon is about everything it just seems a little short sighted to open just a book store.

Nevertheless, I continued into the brightly lit space. I felt like one of the new customers walking into Joe Fox’s “Fox Books.” Everything was beautifully displayed, clean, and covered in books. The coffee from the cafe connected to the store wafted through the air providing the atmosphere with some sort of sensory trigger. Paper and coffee; a deadly combination to any good-willed reader.

The entire experience made me think of You’ve Got Mail and the battle for bookish territory between an independent bookstore and a major corporate book outlet. However, there were some obvious differences between Fox Books and Amazon Books.

I didn’t get the vibe that Fox Books was trying to set up. Yes, there was coffee and books but the store was a little bit cramped. Given the fact that they’re right in front of the Empire State Building, they’re getting way more foot traffic than Joe Fox was getting at his store in the Upper West Side.

I was a little squished against some other book browsers. Moms and dads just watching their kids playing on the Kindle Fires. The aisles were a little cramped and not even two people can pass casually without a few “excuse me”s and “i’m sorry”s. There weren’t floors of books where you can hide out and read for hours without anyone interrupting you. There wasn’t a huge selection of novels from every genre here. I didn’t even see an Amazon Books mug! I would have been all over that.

But I think the biggest and most interesting thing about this store was the selection. I read somewhere that Amazon Books would only stock novels that have been rated and reviewed the most on Amazon and Goodreads. If you’re the social reader that reads a good book every six months, then this will be the store for you. You get to see a great compilation of best-reviewed novels throughout all the genres.

However, if you’re an avid reader getting in about 25-50 books a year you might find this store to be a little underwhelming. All the books I saw on display were novels I’ve already heard of and seen. Some I’ve already read. And as attractive as that is to the average consumer, it’s not that attractive for a daily reader.

The other downside of having only best-rated or best-reviewed is that you’re not going to get those hidden gem novels. You’re not going to find the mid-list novel here. This is really a drawback especially since my mission in life is to share great diverse reads and some of those reads aren’t being read by the hundreds of thousands.

And of course, you can buy any of the Amazon products right at the store. That is if you can get an opportunity to pry a kid off the Kindle Fires to see how they work.

There was definitely one plus, though. You can pay with your Amazon account and if you’re a Prime member, you can get a discounted price. You know when you’re shopping for books on Amazon and you see the retail price  with a strikethrough and a discounted price? Well, that’s what you can get to pay here. To pay with your Amazon account, all you have to do is scan a QR code with your phone and then the cashier just scans your phone. I didn’t even take my wallet out once and contemplate the remorse I would feel from buying six books.

Overall, I think this might be a good hangout for me while I wait for the train. There’s coffee and books for me to browse, but it’s not going to be my go-to spot for books. It was fun and I’ll probably go in there again, but I’m not going to hold my breath that this will replace any other bookstore in the world.

 

Bookstore Tour – Hoehyeon Underground Market Bookstore

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While on my travels in Korea, I wanted to spend some time checking out the local bookstores. Sadly, I didn’t check out any (blame it on the jetlag and laziness), but while walking through the city’s underground shopping centers, I came across a little bookstore crammed floor to ceiling with books.

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I could barely fit myself into the store. A narrow entrance led me to books from all different genres, in different languages, and from different countries. The faint sound of classical music playing somewhere in the back indicated to me that this wasn’t just some personal collection unearthed and placed in a small store as storage. This place with a legitimate store with probably some sort of shelving system that I couldn’t discern. It almost felt like a “choose your own adventure” where you are lucky to find something you were looking for. The fun part is that you always find something.

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Bookstore Tour – Books Are Magic

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Books Are Magic is a midsize bookstore in the heart of Cobble Hill. Owned by Emma Straub and her husband, their dedication to bring an independent bookstore to their part of Brooklyn was such a success.

The walls smell like fresh paint and the bookshelves have that distinct musk that only books have when coupled with wood. It’s too bad there wasn’t a cafe because I’m pretty sure coffee would seal the deal and make it a true bookstore.

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My first assumption I had about the store before even stepping foot into it was that it was some  place where they only sold like the 6th printed copy of Faulkner or only non-biographical pieces. But no, I was wrong. This place carried everything. From popular NYT best-sellers to some indie titles, I was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful and spacious bookstore in the middle of Cobble Hill.

The walls are lined with beautiful hardcover, paperback, fiction and non-fiction alike. Stepping deeper into the store you’ll find a whole room dedicated to children with little reading nooks for those who want a little bit of time to themselves.

Come by to read, to browse, to attend an event, or even to pick up a cute trinket or two. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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Books Are Magic

225 Smith St

Brooklyn, NY 11231

https://www.instagram.com/booksaremagicbk/