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Consumer Chronicle: Lexington Bookstores Good to the Last Page

bookstore 300LEXINGTON, Ky. (7/29/13) – Struggling to finish that summer reading list before the leaves start falling? Bookstores are in abundance here in Lexington, each providing a different atmosphere and different price points.

Joseph Beth Booksellers: Fulfill all Your Literary Needs with Comfort and Class
Joseph Beth Booksellers is located at 161 Lexington Green Circle, just off Nicholasville Road. Joseph Beth is two-story bookstore, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.

“We are the largest independent chain in the Southeast,” said Brooke Raby, the marketing manager for Joseph Beth’s Lexington location. “We're one of the strongest independent bookstores in America and we love being a part of Lexington.”

Joseph Beth has been in operation for 27 years, and with a building measuring more than 40,000 square feet that houses approximately 100,000 titles, that's no surprise. However, not all of the books sold in the store are nationally known.

“We pride ourselves in carrying a lot of Kentucky generated goods, from books to magazines and newspapers to products that are uniquely Kentucky,” said Raby.

It's not just the large selection that Raby said keeps customers coming through the doors, but it's the atmosphere—complete with large overhead skylight that shines from the tall ceilings, a café and bistro, a fountain and pond that flow behind the store, and aesthetically pleasing decorations—that makes Joseph Beth a must-see location for Lexington locals and tourists alike.

“What we hear constantly is that people who live here have been coming to Joseph Beth for a really long time, but what they always say is that anytime anybody comes in town to visit us, the first thing we do is take them to Joseph Beth,” said Raby.

The store hosts about 200 events a year, spanning from kid's story times, to local, regional and national author meet-and greets that include the likes of Gene Hackman, John Calipari, Stephen King, and Jimmy Carter.

Half Price Books: A Bargain Hunting Bibliophile’s Playground
If you're looking for books on a budget, Half Price Books may be the place for you. Half Price Books has two locations in Lexington, one at 127 W. Tiverton Way just off Nicholasville Road, the other at 2321 Sir Barton Way near the Hamburg Pavilion.

Ken Kalen is the manager of Half Price Books on West Tiverton Way. He said Half Price Books is one of the largest national used book chains, with 118 stores throughout the country.

“We're continually expanding,” he said. “We try to buy back books from the public in order to fill our stock, and that makes most of our stock here half price or less. We do have some new things that come in, so those things are a little bit more expensive, but for the most part everything in the store is half-price or less.”

Kalen said selling books to the store has become very popular and is what keeps prices so low at their locations.

“We make a cash offer on whatever they bring in. It's one of the ways we do business and have been doing it for 41 years,” he said. “A lot of used bookstores will take stuff and give you store credit. We make a cash offer on everything and offer a place for someone to take all [his or her] stuff. They don't have to go to six different places in order to get rid of it.”

You’ll also find records and used video games and consoles on the shelves, including classics ranging from Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games to PlayStation 1 and 2 consoles and games.

“A little bit of everything that's related to media and pretty much everything that's printed or recorded,” said Kalen of their expansive stock.

J.D Carruthers is a frequent shopper at Half Price Books. He said the prices keep him coming back.

“Our whole family reads a lot. My daughter is a bookworm,” said Carruthers. “My wife and I probably have about 3,000 to 4,000 books in our house. Plus, I've sold a couple books, the ones I wasn't able to read or lost interest in, so I was able to make a trade.”

The Morris Book Shop: The Cool and Cozy Local Favorite
If you are looking for a warm and homey place to find the perfect book, The Morris Book Shop at 882 E. High St. may be the place for you. But, don't let the smaller size fool you. Morris Books has a vast variety of titles that can please even the fussiest booklovers.

“We're just a smallish, general interest bookstore sort of harkening back to earlier decades when this was sort of the norm before the big book superstores popped up,” said Hap Houlihan, manager at Morris Books. “We have sort of historical roots in the fact that my uncle ran the original Morris Book Shop.”

Houlihan’s uncle bought the store in the 50's and ran it until around 1978. The store reopened in 2008 on Southland Drive and moved to Chevy Chase about two years ago.

“This is sort of the second reincarnation of the store,” said Houlihan. “It's based on the same principles of staying relatively small, but still trying to have everything that people may want, and special ordering anything we didn't guess right on.”

The store hosts a number of book readings, poetry readings, book signings, and live-music events. About 80 percent of the events feature local talent, according to Houlihan.

“If you're a local author who just came out with a book, you're going to bring your friends and your family and your co-workers and your cousins in here,” he said. “We almost always get really good attendance for local signings. It's a great way to give them a boost, sort of a kick-start as they're rolling their book out.”

Courtney Walker visited Morris Books for the first time this week.

“It's seems really cozy and very comfortable,” she said. “The music is nice and it doesn't feel like some of those dank, kind of crowded bookstores that you go to. It's very nice.”

Houlihan said that when it comes down to it, bookstores aren't in it for the competition and that they all have the same goal in mind.

“All bookstores definitely have the same core mission and that's just to put good books in the hands of avid readers,” he said.

David Gillum
SurfKY News
Photo courtesy of The Morris Book Shop

Consumer Chronicles is a weekly column written by SurfKY reporter David Gillum to profile and compare local businesses and products. If you have a business or product category you’d like investigated, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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