The Death of the Vancouver Bookstore

In the past few years, I’ve watched the retail fronts of many a bookstore lower their shutters never to open them again. It looks like the good old local bookstore is disappearing in favour of online book sellers and the big box book megastore.

It is with sadness that a local Vancouver icon in the book business is going out of business. I remember when the Book Warehouse occupied major locales in the city, such as stores in Metrotown, Downtown Granville Street, and West 4th Avenue. They had been slowly shrinking over the years, but they were still offering great discounts on all books that they carried. If I had a choice between Chapters and Book Warehouse, I’d rather go to Book Warehouse because it was almost always cheaper and it was local.

Their Yaletown location just closed a few months ago. Now their 4 remaining locations will also be closing out. I’ve gotten some great deals over the years from them. My favourite book from the Book Warehouse was the late Chuck Davis’ The Greater Vancouver Book. The telephone book sized was full of juicy trivia and tidbits. I took a copy with me to China and left it in the teacher’s library there. I wonder if anyone ever reads it still?

Duthie Books (credit: Szymon Surma)

Another iconic Vancouver bookstore that closed shop last year was Duthie Books. Their last store was on West 4th Avenue beside the Capers Whole Foods Market. I remember a time when Duthies took over for the short-lived Bollum Books at Granville and Georgia in the 1990’s. Today, London Drugs occupies that location.

When Duthies closed, I also picked up a few books during their closing sale. My favourite is a book called Wuhu Diary, which documents an American woman’s journey to China to adopt a young girl and her return years later to show her daughter the city of her birth. It was a sentimental read for me because it reminded me greatly of my time in China. Another great book I got from Duthie is Paris Underground by Mark Ovenden.  It’s a illustrated history of the Paris Metro.

Sophia Books (credit: Jeremy Hood)

For me personally, the loss of Sophia Books was one of the worst.  It was a small specialty book shop that carried books in many different languages.  I loved perusing their Japanese section for neat little books or magazines.  I must admit that I was more of a peruser than a buyer there, but it was a great store that I would visit anytime I was near Harbour Centre.

My most memorable purchase from Sophia Books was a small collection of posters of the anime classic, Macross.  I bought it way back in the 1980’s when the shop carried primarily Japanese language books and it was located on Nelson Street just off of Granville.  You can read more about my history with Sophia Books here.

There is, however, one more independent local bookstore out there that I’ve visited from time to time.  It’s Oscar’s Art Books on West Broadway and Granville.  It’s directly across from the giant Chapters in South Granville, but it has survived so far.  I often go in there looking for discount calendars around Christmas time.  It’s also a good store if you are into art, design, architecture, photography and/or erotica.  Oscar’s has found its own little niche thus far.  Time will tell if Oscar’s can survive with the likes of Chapters and Amazon in the market.


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