Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Hunting (Promise I'll get to letters soon!)

Image courtesy of Salt Lake Daily Photo

Rare Books. Prints Posters. Paper Ephemera. Vintage Photographs. Old Postcards. Antique Maps.

Looking up above the door of the shop, I always smile. It was the first place I saw the word ephemera, and I've been in love ever since.

Walking in, it is like coming home. I grew up reading books I'd find in my parent's storage boxes, old books smelling wonderfully of glue and paper and words. That's the smell of Ken Sanders.

Inside, it is a reader's paradise. Shelves from floor to ceiling, stacked and double stacked with all manner of books. Old books, new books, even comic books. There are bins full of old photographs, stacks of handbills and posters, and maps.

I've got a pattern down. I head straight back to the mystery section, then hit fiction, science fiction, and then Ed Abbey. After that, the rest of the shop is free game. Today, it was the beat writers (I want a copy of Dharma Bums), and then the art books. After that, I headed to the children's section... I still have an incredible fondness for children's literature. The people who write children's books are the true artists among us. They tell the same story it takes some of us 100,000 words to tell in less than half the length, and it is so much more powerful for that.

The haul
The Haul
I didn't find everything I wanted at Ken Sanders, so I had to make the long and arduous journey to Barnes and Noble. Amazing the contrast. Where Ken Sanders is running out of space for books (like me), BN seems like they don't have enough books to fill the space they had, yet I couldn't find what I wanted. It took talking to three different people to discover that the book I was looking for actually wasn't out on the shelf, even though it was in stock. So unlike the store where chance is the name of the game. Today, I found a copy of The English Patient for $5.00... and last time, I walked out of there empty handed. But that's the charm of the thing, why I like the used bookstore over BN. I can't guarantee that I'm going to find exactly what I'm looking for on a given day, but I almost always find something awesome.

So, to tie it back in to the bigger picture.

Shops like Ken Sanders are like the letter. They are amazing things, but things that are being threatened by our electronic society. By shopping there, I feel like I'm doing my part to save the written word, to keep the proud tradition alive. And truthfully, it's fun. I love shops where the owner is the one who helps you find what you are looking for, and they know who you are when you walk in the door, and greet you like an old friend. You realize you're part of something so much bigger and older than yourself.

The Shop

BW photo courtesy of:
Main Page
Salt Lake Daily Photo


  1. Wow! There are a few nice used bookstores in my area but this one puts them to shame! I happened upon your blog through my friend over at Type Clack, but I'll be visiting more often. Well written and interesting!

  2. Viva la used bookstores! I love them.

    In trying to organize a type-in in my town my wife and I have now met with the owner of the used bookstore twice and had a few telephone conversations. It is so cool to be able to interact with the actual people who own and run these places. I know they (the stores) are being threatened but I hope they stick around for a long, long time.

  3. @Wordrebel: Thank you. This place is absolutely amazing. I may just post a tour. But I can't post the smells.
    Oh, and I'll try to get you a response to your question tonight. I think I know what I want to say. ;)

    @Snohomish: Used bookstores like this are being especially threatened here. One of the state reps is trying to pass a law that will remove the pawn shop exemption that they and antique and consignment stores get from having to fingerprint every person who they buy books from, and inventorying every purchase and uploading it to a state database every day as pawn shops do--a measure supposedly to crack down on theft. As Ken said, it isn't worth the money to pay someone to inventory a $3 paperback--and it isn't going to help any more to stop theft than do his existing policies. It's crazy.

    And I wish there were more people around here (that I know of) who would be interested in participating in a type in... it would be a neat hting, and I know of a few places where would host it...

    But, back to the point. I agree. I hope these places are around until books crumble and fall into dust with the rest of our society. We need them. We need that tactile experience. Give our world a little dimension.

    And if any of our readers are locals (or just interested), check it out and send a letter to your rep!

  4. I read that Jared Diamond book a few years ago. Interesting stuff.

  5. I haven't gotten far, but it looks interesting and comes well recommended. ANd I recommend Three Cups Of Tea. Loved it.