Half-Price Books: The short yet thoroughy insightful article is from Fortune, I think just the online version. Gives a heady glimpse into the way one of my favorite literary resources works, Half-Price Books.
Going back through a lifetime love affair with books, the mere mention of the name conjurs up two images, one is the Rider-Waite (Tarot) image of the Fool, the iconic logo for Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, AZ. The other image, more deeply held as personal, is the previous “World Headquaters” for the aforementioned Half-Price Books.
While I was only in Tempe, AZ long enough to complete a University degree, Changing Hands Books was like a second home with a basement, itself rare in AZ, filled with used books, which, at times are way more interesting than new books. Margin notes, what’s been read, what’s not been read, abandoned poetry, out-of-date literary tomes, all of it, at times, just way more interesting. I tended to think, as provencial as I am, I tended to regard – and call it thusly – not “Changing Hands,” but “Half-Price” although, frequently, the books were not half-price.
The flagship store for Half-Price Books was, at one time, a Spanish Galleon, a theme restaurant left over from the days of yore when themed restaurants were all the rage. Instead of gutting the restaurant’s antiquated theme, the bookstore just added shelves among the timbers and spars, the ribs of the restaurant’s hull. Short-lived home, but I loved it when it was like that.
The glimpse into the innner-working of the Half-Price Books machinery, the corporate cogs? Even better, as, in my experience, each store seems to have a different personality, and each store offers variations on a themes. The South Lamar store in Austin, the old Oak Lawn store in Dallas, these were favorite haunts. Austin also had the big store, up at the other end of Lamar, near DPS, a huge, like, maybe, an old grocery store? Big location, plus, one on the Drag (the narrow strip of Guadalupe that faces The University of Texas at Austin.) I have no idea what is still there, other than the big store, apparently now the Half-Price Books World Headquaters, in Dallas.
In my current adopted home of San Antonio, there are two stores that I’ve frequented, with the best finds – so far – old Jimmy Buffett album covers. The Half-Price Books in Corpus Christi, TX? Beach reading, at its best, I would guess.
Each store is a little odd, and that makes each store more vibrant, in a book-lover way.