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bay books

home to a whole lot of used books
2415 San Ramon Valley Blvd.
San Ramon CA 94583
(925) 855-1524
(October 2009 review)

overall feel & design
Bay Books
is the cleanest, neatest, large used bookstore we've both ever been in. It's in a strip mall and doesn't look grand from outside, but once you get through their doors you realize that there are thousands and thousands of books waiting for you to browse them. It is so striking ... how CLEAN this store is. If you're looking for that 'old book musty' sort of used bookstore, take your nose elsewhere. The lighting seemed quite good, the carpeting was easy on the feet, and there's a seeming forest of plain, unfinished, well-marked bookcases reaching almost to the ceiling. After you get by the front displays tables and counters there are seemingly countless freestanding, tall, raw wood bookcases. With all those shelving units, the store has many different clusters of fixtures and alcoves for different subjects. We didn't have a lot of time, but it seemed that the only new books were up front on display and in the bestsellers display, and the used books filled the shelves in the rest of the bookstore. The vast number of backlist titles through fiction, mystery, science fiction, romance and several other sections, were very impressive. The bookcases are numerous, but there is no rat-in-a-maze mindset going on here. Because so many sections are freestanding, it's harder to talk about a flow from subject to related subject. Nonfiction and fiction sections are grouped and I had no problem adapting to their layout and finding my way around. The bookcases grouped around the store created lots of comfortable, separate spaces in which to browse. This is not a place for stylish, richly-finished fixtures, but a neat place to find so many of the backlist titles that no longer sit on new bookstore's shelves. I thought the store would be one of those romances-without-the-covers kind of a place and it was a wonderful surprise to find all those good books.

The staff member that greeted me was VERY friendly and made a point of asking me if I needed any help and then engaged me in conversation on the way out. There is a small distant between being friendly and pushing too hard with book customers (the book customer species is a very sensitive one) and this bookseller handled it spot on. The staff was very active sorting, shelving, cleaning, and talking with the customers all the time we were there ... that explains the store's clean, well-ordered appearance

bay books sign

the selection
The large numbers of paperback titles were staggering. We haven't seen this many mass market paperbacks since we could pick our own bookstore's orders at San Francisco area distributors years ago. While there are hardcovers (they're strong in art, history, biography, and several other nonfiction sections) the stock is mostly paper. I spent quite a bit of time in a good art and design section, and my partner was checking out all those fiction backlist titles. They cover most all subjects and are glad to order anything new you're cruising for. Whether you are looking at the total mass of books throughout the store, or studying one part of a section, the selection is impressive, and the prices seemed low. (We found  several, valuable hardcover first-editions marked at just $7.50.) This store was fairly busy and active. We may very well may have missed more nonbook items, but we did notice some used audio books, and a few greeting cards  

They have lots of props in the front windows and around the store displays, but we were there right before Halloween ... who can resist those kinds of props?! The store did had several counters, tables and other places to show off some books in the front, before you got to all those bookcases. I did noticed one small area of staff recommendations and some other IndieBound information, as well as notices of some local happenings.

store events
Bay Books doesn't appear to do many store events. But, as most stores that concentrate on used books have no events at all ... they are ahead of the curve.  

website www.baybooks.us
Bay Books has a website that includes a lot of information. They have a page for their events, a lot of staff recommendations, information on their book clubs, a good list of new titles for the current month, a page each for kids and teens, and they archive the store's newsletters (that include lots of different things) as well. They do have some of their inventory listed online. It's not a flashy website, but it's very informative.
Linda & Diane 

kudos for things that caught John's eye
    ̶   so many paperbacks
    ̶   this is one fabulously CLEAN used bookstore

maybe change
    ̶   while they display the new bestsellers list books right up front, they needs better signing
    ̶   as new book junkie, woodworker, and bookstore fixture designer, I would love to see more new trades
and hardcovers, as well as some pretty fixtures, but that's just not where Bay Books is at - more power to them and all those paperbacks

store hours (as of this October 2009 review)
Monday-Friday 10am-7:45pm
Saturdays 10am-6:45pm
Sundays 11am-5:45pm


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