Books in Berkeley


Nearly a year after Cody's on Telegraph shut down, the Barnes & Noble on Shattuck permanently shut its doors on Thursday night. Dr. M and I made one last visit to pick over the clearance sale leavings, and came away with a handful of excessively marked-down books that probably still would have been cheaper on

Apparently selling books in Berkeley is not a very profitable enterprise. Which is somewhat surprising, it being a college town and all. The fact that Barnes & Noble couldn't hang suggests that the demise of Cody's wasn't a matter of being driven out of business by a nefarious corporate megastore. As the Daily Clog post mentions, the company is giving a host of questionable, shareholder-friendly reasons for closing the store. But I agree with the Clog that the real culprit is the Intertron.

With Cody's and Barnes & Noble out of the way, Pegasus and Moe's remain as the two main booksellers in the campus area (and I forgetting anyone?). Both stores engage actively in the used book market, which is probably a big factor in their respective successes. I think the willingness to pay full price for books is diminishing -- particularly among cash-strapped college students -- in light of the fact that discounts are so easy to come by.

Either that, or Berkeley students just hate reading.


Meh, there are still a few more booksellers in Berkeley, including:

On Bancroft -
Cal Student Store
University Press

I forgot a few others, but the Daily Cal listed a bunch of them about a year ago:

There are also several other B&Ns in the cities surrounding Berkeley, including Albany, Oakland, and Orinda. I think there are more than a few Borders around here as well.

Yeah, but with all of the recent closures, I've got to think there are three elements at work here:
1) Internet business kills local retailers here.
2) The City of Berkeley buries businesses, particularly chains, in taxes in bureaucracy.
3) The area around campus just isn't a natural commercial area. It isn't a place that is convenient to get to - it is a good few miles from any freeway, hardly visible from those major throughways, parking is a bitch, the streets can't handle that high of traffic, and so on.

Then again, the market could just be oversaturated.

there's a half-price books on shattuck by the bart station. it's excellent AND relatively cheap. i like it much more than the HPB in concord that i used to work at.

Ah yes, I forgot the student store. That's a solid bookstore, that is. Do Ned's and UP carry a general stock of books?

There's also, somewhat more fringe-ly, The Other Change Of Hobbitt (right next door to HPB) and Analog Books on Euclid. And Shakespeare and Co. on Telegraph. And Dark Carnival on Claremont, and Mrs. Dalloway's on College, although those aren't that close to campus. And I feel sure there's another little bookstore on Shattuck north of Hearst somewhere, which probably, like half of this list, buys and sells used books.

A lot of stuff has been closing in Berkeley in the last year. Shattuck in particular seems to have trouble keeping retail space filled. Ben seems to have a pretty good set of hypotheses for why, but there's also the fact that renting a storefront the size of Barnes and Noble in Berkeley is so expensive that you need to be making truly fat dollahs to stay in business. Speaking of which, does anyone but me remember when the enormous Long's on Shattuck was something other than Long's? And what was it?


Dianna: I think the place north of Hearst on Shattuck is Black Oak Books, next to Saul's Deli and across the street from the Safeway. If it's still there, that is. I remember they had a pretty nice selection, but tended toward expensive vintage books rather than cheap old paperbacks.

Just for the record, I didn't mean to suggest that Pegasus and Moe's were the only bookstores left in Berkeley. Just the two "major" ones, a term which is defined somewhat arbitrarily by me. I recognize that there are a pantload of quirky bookstores in the city, as there should be.

Longs on Shattuck used to be Bill's Drugs.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on June 2, 2007 10:09 AM.

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