Powell’s Books is one of the world’s best independent bookstores. It was started in the 1970s with this simple question: why shouldn’t new and used books be displayed side by side on the shelves of a bookstore? That simple question turned one small, independently owned bookstore into a phenomenon.
The flagship store is located in downtown Portland, Oregon. The original store is still there and has since been expanded to take over the building in which it was housed (which also used to be home to a car dealership). The flagship store is four stories tall and takes up an entire city block. It has its own parking garage (discounts on parking available if you buy a book and show your receipt to the parking attendant), café, art gallery and rare book collection. If it is or has been in print, you should be able to find it at Powell’s.
There are only a few other brick and mortar stores, all located in the Portland metro area. While none compare to the wonder that is the flagship store downtown, each store has its own personality.
If you don’t live in the Portland metro area, you can still buy from Powell’s by utilizing their website. They ship to just about anywhere and the website is as independent as the brick and mortar stores.
As early as a decade ago, the larger chain stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble still felt like independent booksellers. Slowly but surely these stores have become more and more “corporate feeling,” and have lost a great deal of their original personality (and this is coming from a life long Borders fan!). You can bet that won’t be happening with Powell’s. Powell’s prides itself on its independence and defiance in the face of corporate America.
At Powell’s it’s all about the books.