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Monday, July 23, 2007

Used Books Offered in Three U.S. Airport Bookstores

I flew regularly over roughly a three-decade period before I swore off flying forever on March 22, 2002. And during those almost countless trips, including more than 50 trips across the Atlantic, I found myself in dozens of airport bookstores trying to fight the sheer boredom and frustration that has become such a large part of today's business travel. But not once in all those trips did I run into an airport bookstore that included used books in its sales stock. Until today, I didn't even know that anyone had been brave enough to try something that unique but, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, that's happening in at least three U.S. airports now.
A selection of used books is mixed in among the new at Powell's Books at Portland International.

Headquartered in downtown Portland, Powell's has three branches at the airport: one in the pre-security Oregon Market area and smaller outlets on Concourses C and D.

Powell's airport store manager Martin Barrett says travelers can stop by the pre-security store to sell or trade as many as three books at a time.

Anyone with more than three books to sell or swap must drop them off and return a day or two later for a tally.

''A lot of airport employees and airline crew members take advantage of this,'' says Barrett, but if a passenger shows up with a suitcase full of books to swap, that's fine, too.
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Opened about 30 years ago, the Renaissance Book Shop at General Mitchell International Airport may be the oldest used bookstore in an airport.

Located pre-security, the store's shelves are crammed with 40,000 to 50,000 books -- everything from general fiction and biography to local and regional history. There are also back copies of Life magazine.

Dave Long, a staff member at the bookstore for more than 25 years, says customers include frequent travelers, "meeters and greeters" and folks who come to the airport just to browse.

"It's always great to see someone just light up when they find something they've been searching for," Long says.

Ember Dahlvig, who works for a hedge fund in New York and grew up in Medford, Wis., travels to Milwaukee often to visit friends -- and to shop for used books at the airport.

"I leave extra room in my luggage planning on it," she says.

Dahlvig likes the selection, prices and some great bargains. She also enjoys the store's relaxing ambience.
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In North Carolina, it's a reader's paradise at Raleigh-Durham International. New books are sold at Borders, Hudson News & Books, CNBC, Press Plus and other retail outlets. But there are about 8,000 used books for sale at 23-year-old 2nd ed. Booksellers, a shop owned by Walter and Karen High. Walter High says the shop sells about 60,000 books a year.
What a great idea! Finally someone realizes that travelers grow sick of seeing the same titles in every airport bookstore that they step into. My favorite airport bookstore was the Books, Etc. located in London's Gatwick airport because it contained a pretty nice selection of hardbacks and paperbacks that I didn't find in most airports. Too, I always looked forward to checking that airport's W.H. Smith location to pick up one of those special "airport hardback editions" that they sold there to travelers for just under ten pounds, quite a bargain at the time because they were recently released books and were usually not available in the U.S. yet.

But finding an airport bookstore that stocked a few thousand used books would have been a dream come true for someone like me...and I might still be flying.
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