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Great Bookstores Remain Downtown


Like all relationships of enduring worth, it is the complexity of Santa Barbara that causes residents to continually appreciate their decision to endure and remain. Of course, it is new discoveries of old details that often give the most appreciated additions to a long relationship.

This week, the media-conscious Barbarenos read of locals lamenting the loss of the “downtown bookstores.” Of course, the first reaction of the bibliophile is anger for the hypocrisy of the self righteous masses. If one had not chosen to buy a Kindle or to make an online transaction over the experience of book-buying in a brick and mortar location, then we would not be welcoming two new additions to the already overflowing clothing store options on State Street.

That said, I am left to push aside my personal grievances with the impressionable mob and make a case for the remaining depth of the Santa Barbara literary scene. The closing of Borders and Barnes & Noble does not represent the end of the downtown bookstores. Rather, it offers the opportunity to uncover some old Santa Barbara treasures. Specifically, there remain three bookstores in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara.

First, there is The Book Den, located at 15 E. Anapamu Street (between State and Anacapa). First established in 1902 in San Francisco, and relocated to Santa Barbara in 1933, The Book Den is the oldest used bookstore in California and offers a wide selection of both new and used books. As the name implies, The Book Den presents a cavernous escape from the bustling downtown scene, where a reader can lose themselves in the pages of a potential purchase.

At 827 Santa Barbara St. (by the old Presidio) you will find Thrasher Books. A great benefit of this store is the proprietress who holds court on a daily basis to offer lively discussion and personal book selections.

Last but not least, Lost Horizon Books sits comfortably tucked into its location at 703 Anacapa Street (across from the Paradise Café). An impressive selection of local history and Western Americana (as well as more mainstream options) provides the opportunity to be transported back to another time in this place, each turn of the page offering new discoveries and adventures.

Of course, a short distance from downtown, there remain Chaucer’s Bookstore (3321 State Street) and the Paperback Exchange (1838 Cliff Dr.).

While the community took its turn in romps with the commercial chains, these and other local bookstores have waited patiently, as forgotten secrets of our lady, Sta. Barbara. Let us take this opportunity to rediscover the depth of this city before she becomes covered in designer clothing and loses her literary soul.

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