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the HEAD


4163 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA
(510) 653-7300
(May 2011 review)

overall feel & design
Spectator Books is in one of those very special neighborhoods, one that has the feel of something special. Some people would call it that small-town feel. Piedmont Avenue is a pretty cool area, it's got a Grand old movie theater, a couple of bookstores, seemingly countless fine restaurants, one really great grocery store, day spas, antiques, coffee shops, good ice cream, many other goods and services available, oh, and at the far end are the lovely hills of the Mountain View Cemetery.

This bookstore is a key part of this unique community, and people seem to feel that it belongs there, reflecting its owner, readers, and its community. The store has about 2,000 square feet of space, spread through several room, and holds around 75,000 new, used, and remainder books. The layout is tight, full, as in every inch of space is being used, and it ends up on the pleasant side of cramped. It's a space for some great books and the people who love them. Being community-minded, the bookstore works with the nearby movie theater by donating copies of books that compliment current movies for the theater’s weekly raffles.

signThe front tables and displays feature some of the best of the newest books available, while much of the rest of the store is turned over to some fine used books on many topics. Used books are currently being bought everyday between 11am and 5pm. Their buyer is discriminating, which yields the interesting selection.

Spectator seems to be working well with another bookstore that shares the avenue and readers with them, the smaller Black Swan Books, tucked in at 4236 Piedmont.

I've only been to the store once when more than one person was working the floor, but the staff seems to be quite knowledgeable and helpful. I like their attitude.

books at spectator books the selection
A chain bookstore might devote more floor and shelf space to art and photography books, but those other stores will have to work very hard to outdo Spectator's selection...it's good, unique, varied, educational, and entertaining. The selection of new titles on the tables up front are a strong group and cover a broad range, more than those limited square feet should give you. Yes, there is a whole room of children's books, but I'm totally ignorant, as I've only given it a sideways glance as I moved onto another section. Some rooms have shelves custom made for mass market (pocketbook) paperbacks, and they hold a ton of books.

layout of sections
The front of the store has tons of small items of all kinds on display. You can find cards, artwork, some books on CD, DVDs, and lots of other book and nonbook items tucked around the bigger display tables and the counter. Books for kids get their own room in the back of the store. Some mighty fine books on all matter of art and photography matters are given ample space...it's a world in itself. Spectator Books is a place where you find the sections that interest you the most, and then you hang out and browse to your heart's content.

specART display
There is a little artwork and humor on display in the bookstore, but mostly it's books that greet your eyes wherever you look. The new book tables are always a good way to greet visitors in the front of the store. They catch your eye, and draw you into the store, and, before you know it, you're surrounded by books of all types. As you move through the store you see lots of floor-to-ceiling shelves that are completely filled. The key to the store's display style is that any empty horizontal spot is a good place to put another stack of interesting books, and anything blank and vertical is just asking for a small shelf or easel to show off some other intriguing title. You might expect a little chaos, but the staff seems to be able to keep things organized. The section signing is fine and the store is always a good place to go and immerse yourself in books, books, books.

 spec cart

website www.spectatorbooks.com
The website is a single page that yields a visitor a map and a link to biblio.com for Spectator's inventory online. Other than that, it's a yellow pages type static ad with location, phone number, email address, and hours. 
carpet & books
kudos for things that caught John's eye
    ̶  I really like this flowered carpeting
    ̶  always find myself checking out the art and photography sections, along with looking for unique editions in the fiction...often rewarding

maybe change
    ̶  steal some room from a neighboring store. 


store hours (as of this May 2011 review)
Monday to Saturday 11am to 9pm
Sunday 11am to 8pm
(they buy used books everyday 11am to 5pm)

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