Gloomy doesn’t begin to describe the feel in Portland, especially in the late fall and winter. The city of roses averages 222 days of cloud cover each year. So what better city than Portland to have upwards of 15 independent bookstores?
As Portland continues to grow into an actual metropolitan area small independent operations – especially for print books – are peering into a foggier future than ever. But little do most shoppers know prices at most of these independent bookstores are dirt cheap. Unless you’re looking for the newest and freshest titles independent bookstores can be a frugally pleasing experience for any shopper out there. With the holiday season in full swing now is the time to utilize this city’s small bookstores.
Here are my favorite places to buy cheap books in Portland:
There is an abundance of options that qualify as general bookstores carrying multiple genres of text. In Southeast Portland especially, shoppers can find themselves in the vicinity of a handful of traditional stores that carry a broad selection of titles:
Wallace Books (SE 17th Avenue – Sellwood)
In this small, quaint, and cozy shop that resides in an old house, books are stacked from floor to ceiling – often in an amazingly disorganized but accessible manner – and the employees are always happy to have you. During the summer months, Wallace Books even has a ‘free’ table out front that includes titles varying from ‘what did I just read?’ to ‘didn’t that just come out?’
Not only does Wallace Books cram an impressive amount of product into their tiny shop but they offer both new and used copies of titles, and the prices are always pleasing to the wallet.
Bingo Used Books (SE Powell Boulevard)
As you’re driving down Powell, you might notice the abundance of…well… strip clubs. Now if you’ve heard anything about Portland that is nothing to be surprised of (I mean we even have a vegan strip club for Pete’s sake). But if you look carefully between the ‘adult’ entertainment venues, you’ll find Bingo Used Books, where you can buy a different kind of adult entertainment that might have a bit more value than its neighborly competitors.
Bingo has over 100,000 items in the store (including some CDs, vinyl, and DVDs) and advertises having 10,000 or more that cost less than $1. In addition to the in-store inventory, Bingo claims to have 100,000 more titles online.
Don’t be fooled by their website, though, you’ll get a better price for anything you buy from them by walking into the store. They say so themselves.
Longfellows Books (SE Division St.)
Since 1981 Longfellows has been providing Southeast Portland with a reliable, comfortable and family owned bookstore. The store carries a variety of books ranging from new titles to rare literary first editions.
The store has been in the same location since 1991 and is run by a father/son duo of Jon and Nile Hagan. In addition to their vast collection of book titles the store has always carried an extensive list of magazines ranging from Architectural Digest to Rolling Stone.
Another neighborhood that features a bevy of independent sellers is Northeast Portland. In that part of town, you’re likely to find a mixture of general interest and special interest stores. Regarding booksellers that feature many genres here are the best:
Another Read Through (N. Mississippi Avenue – North Portland)
Owned by a mid-2000’s Portland transplant, Another Read Through is the epitome of the new Portland. Placed quietly in a hip North Portland neighborhood, Another Read Through features titles from bestselling authors to local novelists alike. There are often book readings or launches at the store. Much like most of the Portland independent booksellers, Another Read Through is proud to offer significantly reduced priced secondhand titles.
Broadway Books (NE Broadway St. – Lloyd)
Although Broadway Books sells primarily new titles, they do have a collection of secondhand and on-sale books. The store has been in operation since 1992 and makes sure to differentiate themselves on their website from a New York City company of the same name.
They are proud to be an independent Portland bookseller.
Some other stores promote secondhand and reasonably priced new titles in Portland. If you’re looking to survey the entire Portland independent bookselling scene, you can’t miss the following (one of them there’s no way you’d miss anyhow):
New Renaissance Books (NW 23rd Avenue – Alphabet District)
Slipped cunningly into a Northwest Portland home is New Renaissance Books – a store that just whispers you into relaxation. Featuring mainly spiritual titles (and by that I mean Buddhist, relaxation and astrological), the store also has a very cool collection of homeware.
Annie Bloom’s Books (SW Capitol Highway – Multnomah Village)
In 1978, Annie Bloom’s Books opened in Multnomah Village. They’re still going strong. There are no used titles in this store, but they do offer an impressive array of new titles. Instead of super low secondhand prices, Annie’s is proud to offer a robust selection of sale books at all times.
Reading Frenzy (N. Mississippi Avenue – North Portland)
Reading Frenzy is so Portland. Located in the heart of Portland’s gentrification hub of Mississippi Avenue. Reading Frenzy is a small press that also sells books and art in their storefront.
Powell’s City of Books (W. Burnside – Downtown)
The king of all gods. The ruler of them all… Powell’s City of Books is a mammoth store (taking up an entire city block). Although Powell’s has expanded to other locations in Portland, it remains an independent bookseller and has a more than an extensive collection of used and new titles from all genres.
Special Interest Bookstores
Back to Northeast Portland…of course. In this part of town those of us who are looking for a children’s specific bookstore, or possibly a feminist bookstore, have options.
A Children’s Place (NE Fremont St.)
Portland’s oldest independent children’s bookstore has been going strong since 1974. With a small and enthusiastic staff and plenty of events A Children’s Place is an exemplary operation to support, not to mention they are savvy price makers!
Green Bean Books (NE Alberta St.)
In the same neck of the woods is Green Bean Books, another children’s oriented, independent seller. The store offers a traditional cozy reading atmosphere and has new and used titles all of which are reasonably priced. They have a small staff, so everyone knows what they’re doing.
In Other Words (NE Killingsworth St.)
For anybody that has watched Portlandia, the bookstore is real. I repeat… the bookstore is real. On Killingsworth is one of alternative cultures most comical but socially celebrated bookstores around. In Other Words carries titles only about the feminist belief. So if that’s what you’re looking for you’ve got a haven of books to choose from.
The bottom line is that Portland is stacked with independent bookseller options and even though purchasing books online might save you time it’s often the case that buying in one of these stores will save you a significant amount of dough.