With kindles and electronic readers becoming more and more common, a good ol’ fashioned hardback has become a bittersweet reminder of our diminishing relationship with physical books. But, despite this decline, these independent bookshops have flourished and continue to bring new and used books alike to the people of Pittsburgh; each of them offering a rare and wistful experience.
East End Book Exchange
What started as a pop-up business is now the East End Book Exchange with a permanent home on Liberty Avenue. The shop stocks 8,000 titles, the majority of which is used books accompanied by some new releases and local finds. The book exchange puts an emphasis on its role in the community and encourages patrons to sell their books for store credit as well as partake in the slew of events hosted by the shop weekly.
This S. Craig Street shop is home to new releases, obscure literature, cookbooks, zines and more. The tightly packed book store also houses Desolation Row, a small music ‘store’ featuring a broad range of music including blues, jazz and Americana. Although small, Caliban also operates a fruitful online business out of their Wilkinsburg warehouse which contains approximately 150,000 books. All of these titles can be navigated via their website and made available locally or shipped out.
The oldest independent bookstore in the Pittsburgh area, Penguin first opened their doors in 1929. The New York Times reporting store offers a huge selection of fiction, non-fiction, magazines, newspapers and journals. The shop also features special readings and a whimsical nook for children’s storytime.
The Big Idea Bookstore & Cafe
Self described as “radical”, the Big Idea Bookstore has been following an anarchist model in the pursuit of inclusive literature since 2001. Big Idea stocks new books, used books, pins, patches, stickers and free wifi for the taking. The shop is cooperatively owned and operated and considers itself a non-capitalist establishment. And if politics make you hungry, you can also grab a coffee or light lunch while you browse some progressive literature.
Downtown & Squirrel Hill
Perpetually packed with books awaiting a place among the shelves, Amazing Books is a successful local shop with locations in Squirrel Hill and Downtown. Owner Eric Ackland buys and sells books and records, with the majority of his inventory being gently used. The shop features over 30,000 titles, all of which are in great condition despite being previously owned, and a weekly Open Poetry Sharing. Ackland hopes to eventually develop writing workshops which would be featured at the Squirrel Hill shop.