It’s a sad commentary on the state of the book business that all three finalists for Best Indie Bookstore in town sell used books. Yes, they all sell new books, too. But then, of course, how many shops can get by these days selling nothing but books whose prices are being undercut by online giants?
This year’s winner, Smith Family, is a classic, musty, sprawling place, redolent of old yellowing pages and hand-sewn bindings, with piles of still-unsorted books that greet you as you walk through the door. It’s my favorite place to browse poetry anthologies, to look for classics I’ve mysteriously neglected to read and even to find the latest graphic novels.
Smith Family’s two locations — one downtown, the other next to the University of Oregon — are certain to remind a long-time bibliophile of those nationally known icons, Powell’s City of Books in Portland — said to be the largest in the world — and the aptly named Acres of Books in Long Beach, California, a 12,000-square-foot wonder that closed, sadly, in 2008.
We’re lucky to have all three finalists here and still in business.