Used bookstores in Milwaukee

You may never have to pay full price ever again.

Other than buying new books at a deep discount over the internet, there's hardly a better way to acquire both new and used books than by visiting area used book stores. In the process of looking for a particular title, you might be surprised what you find along the way.

My esoteric friend and I, always attempting to explore the deeper intricacies of what Milwaukee has to offer, recently spent a day visiting local used bookstores. Here are a few you might want to check out on a rainy afternoon:

Constant Reader Bookshop Ltd.
1627 E. Irving Pl.
(414) 291-0452

This charming little bookstore is nuzzled against East Side landmark, the Comet Coffee Shop. While relatively quaint, this bookstore shouldn't be underestimated.

Whether looking for a paperback copy of the old western "Shane" by Jack Schaefer, or a first edition of "Curious George" by H. A. Rey in the Children's section, the Constant Reader is a nice contrast to the hustle-and-bustle of larger book retailers.

If nothing else, take a bounce around the thick shag carpeting and buy a book that will keep you away from the satellite dish for a day or two. You may just find a diamond in the rough.

Renaissance Book Shop (two locations)
5300 S. Howell Av. (second level of Mitchell International Airport's Main Terminal)
(414) 747-4526

Don't be turned off by the airport location. This bookstore offers FREE parking (up to two hours) in the airport's parking structure with a minimum $5 purchase. Whether you're dropping somebody off, picking somebody up, or just making a special stop, don't overlook this immense collection of 60,000 volumes, including new books, used books, magazines, comic books, etc.

This particular location is the airport branch of the five-story warehouse store, located in downtown Milwaukee, and offers books covering a wide range of subjects such as aviation, railroads, travel, and Wisconsin history. This store also boasts sizeable fiction and nonfiction catalogs, as well as numerous backlogged volumes of Life and National Geographic magazines.

This bookstore is open seven days a week from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. While credit cards aren't accepted as means of payment, personal and traveler's checks are more than welcome.

Renaissance Book Shop
834 N. Plankinton Av.
(414) 271-6850

With a catalog that boasts somewhere between 250,00 and 500,000 volumes, a trip to Renaissance's downtown location can be a bit intimidating at first. A few simple suggestions first: clear your schedule, wear comfortable shoes and don't wear a watch!

The pitched, scuffed hardwood floors have seen better days, and large chunks of chipped white paint are falling from the rusted tin ceiling of the old storefront. Both add to the bookstore's charming personality and your transcending shopping experience.

While towering bookshelves engulf you overhead, you'll find the selection and organization quite impressive. "We try to cover a little bit of everything," said employee Henry Smith. "Variety brings in a variety of people. People walk in and are in awe. We beat some libraries in terms of what we've got."

When Smith says "variety," he isn't kidding. A gander at the south wing of the second floor revealed the largest collection of used paperbacks I have ever seen together in one place at one time. Fiction, science fiction, westerns, true crime. You name it, chances are they've got it.

A downtown staple since 1976, Renaissance Books still contains an element of mystery for some. "People who live here don't know it's here," Smith said. "When people think of book stores, they think of Walden's, Schwartz, Barnes and Noble, etc. They think of malls, period."

Despite the threat of technology and the Internet to stifle book sales and make bookstores obsolete over the course of time, Smith clutches to his optimistic view. "As long as people still love to read, we'll be in business."

Renaissance Books' downtown location is open from noon to 7 p.m. (M-F), from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and is closed Sundays.

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Procrustean | Nov. 9, 2007 at 4:47 p.m. (report)

I love the selection in The Downtown Bookstore, but I am turned off by the attitudes of the staff. They clearly think they have better things to do, and put me in mind of the stereotypical video rental employee who is just waiting for the chance to become a famous director. That said, I am not sure what I expect employees of a used bookstore to act like, and only have to deal with them when I pay for the books.

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duanedyar | March 31, 2007 at 1:25 p.m. (report)

FYI, Renaissance Book Shop at the airport does take credit cards now. My personal favorite is Downtown books. As you mentioned they still continue to aggressively expand their offerings. Duane

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