Beyond Barnes & Noble: meet Denver’s indie bookstores

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Posted Fri, May 24, 2013

The rise of digital publishing and online shopping has sparked a lot of debate over the last few years about whether brick-and-mortar bookstores are still relevant in our society. With Borders and other national bookstores chains out of business, it can seem like Barnes & Noble is the only option for those of us who still like browsing through shelves rather than websites. And as we all know, Barnes & Noble is overpriced and doesn’t carry everything. But for anyone living in Denver, there are alternatives to the book behemoth. In addition to Colorado’s very own bookstore chain, The Tattered Cover, there are dozens of other unique, cheap and well-stocked bookstores in the downtown area alone. Here’s an introduction to just a few of them.

 

About half the bookstores in Denver are located on one street: South Broadway. That means you could easily visit all these stores in one afternoon’s drive:

 

Gallagher Books

The store front of Gallagher Books

The store front of Gallagher Books (photo by S.L. Alderton)

1428 S Broadway, Denver

This store specializes in antique and collectible books, especially biographies, classics and books on American and Colorado history. I was actually surprised to learn that all the books in the store were used, since most seemed to be in mint condition. Unfortunately, this means that the prices run fairly high. This is a great place to find fancy books to put on display in your home; not such a great place to find a quick, cheap summer read.

 Parking: free, but scarce

Hours: Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Sun noon – 5 p.m.

What I Bought: Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter, hardback – $8.00

 

The Printed Page

1416 S Broadway, Denver

The lovely old-fashioned home of The Printed Page (photo by S.L. Alderton)

The lovely old-fashioned home of The Printed Page (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Just a few doors down the street from Gallagher Books, The Printed Page is a co-op where 14 different dealers rent shelf space to sell their used books. The building itself holds some interest, since it is a converted 19th-century home. Inside, prices and genres vary due to the many booksellers represented here. The Printed Page has a well-stocked children’s section, which Gallagher Books lacks, but it also sells many of the same classics and collectibles that Gallagher does.

 

Parking: free

Hours: Mon-Sat 10:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Sun noon – 5 p.m.

What I Bought: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, hardback – $10.00

 

Mutiny Information Café

(formerly Mutiny Now Art Books and Coffee)

Mutiny's streetside advertising (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Mutiny’s sidewalk advertising (photo by S.L. Alderton)

2 S Broadway, Denver

This store features used books in every genre, records, a coffee shop and a life-size skeleton in a Mohawk. The décor is a bit unusual for a bookstore, but Mutiny has the widest selection of used books I’ve seen so far in my trek around Denver, and it has to be one of the few places in the area that still sells Tears for Fears records. The books are on the cheap end of the scale. The coffee is not, but the iced chai I bought was almost delicious enough to be worth the price.

 

Parking: free on weekends

Hours: Mon-Thurs, Sun 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Fri-Sat 9 a.m. – 4 a.m.

What I Bought: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, paperback – $2.00; small iced chai – $3.75

 

Fahrenheit’s Books

210 S Broadway, Denver

Welcome to Fahrenheit's! (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Welcome to Fahrenheit’s! (photo by S.L. Alderton)

This is a good place to go if you want to find quirky or unusual books. It’s a small store, but it has a wide selection of fantasy and sci-fi, philosophy and even some occult literature. Almost everything is paperback, and although some of the books are clearly antique, they’re all very reasonably priced. Perhaps in keeping with its name, Fahrenheit’s Books smells strongly of cigarette smoke, and it’s not the cleanest store I’ve visited. Fair warning.

 

Parking: Free on weekends

Hours: not listed

What I Bought: a Spanish-English dictionary, paperback – $3.22

 

Broadway is also home to the Broadway Book Mall, which I wasn’t able to visit due to its limited business hours. But here are some non-Broadway shops:

 

Kilgore Used Books and Comics

624 E 13th Ave, Denver

Kilgore's comic book section (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Kilgore’s comic book section (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Kilgore is unquestionably a store for the college age group. It’s run by two young guys, features a whole section of comic books and has a very hip, edgy atmosphere. You won’t find many collectibles here, unless you collect out-of-print pulp fiction paperbacks, but you will find plenty of fantasy, sci-fi and philosophy. Prices are very reasonable.

 

Parking: free, if you can find it

Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.; Sun 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (more or less; according to the website, these hours are flexible)

What I Bought: Twelve Van Gogh Bookmarks booklet, $0.75

 

The Bookies

4315 E Mississippi Ave, Denver

Don't let the ugly strip mall signage fool you-- The Bookies' interior is worth checking out. (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Don’t let the ugly strip mall signage fool you– The Bookies’ interior is worth checking out. (photo by S.L. Alderton)

This independent bookstore carries brand new books, games, teacher resources and even hats and accessories. It’s almost like a big gift shop with an emphasis on young adult literature. The staff are very friendly and helpful, and it seems like a great place for families (there’s a section for toys, too). Since everything is new rather than used, the prices are about the same as those in Barnes & Noble, but at least they have discounts!

 

Parking: free

Hours: Mon – Sat 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun noon – 5 p.m.

What I Bought: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, paperback – $9.69 (with a 10 percent discount)

 

The Hermitage Bookshop

290 Fillmore St, Denver

The hidden Hermitage (photo by S.L. Alderton)

The hidden Hermitage (photo by S.L. Alderton)

Like Gallagher, this is a used bookstore that seems like a new bookstore. All the books are in pristine condition, and some actually are quite new—the book I bought was only published six years ago, and I saw some on the shelves even more recent than that. The Hermitage also sells first editions and collectibles, however, and it has a wide variety of genres. That, combined with the fact that this store is located in a street full of high-end shopping, means the prices run pretty high. It sure is a beautiful shop, though.

 

Parking: about two free parking spots behind the store; everywhere else has a meter

Hours: Mon – Fri 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

What I Bought: The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling, hardback – $10.76

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of bookstores in the Denver area. Among the stores I didn’t get a chance to visit are: Capitol Hill Books, West Side Books, 2 Buck Books, Park Hill Community Bookstore, The Book Rack, Shining Lotus Metaphysical Bookstore, Nic-Nac-Nook Metaphysical Bookstore, and the Book Niche. But the shops I had the privilege of seeing should serve as a reminder that despite Amazon, Kindle and the decline of literacy, there are still plenty of places to sit and read a good book—if you know where to find them.

About S.L. Alderton

S.L. Alderton is an MSU Denver student majoring in magazine journalism.

View all posts by S.L. Alderton

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