As our retinas burn in glowing screens and our fingers swipe simulated pages, we often forget that books aren't just media, they're art. Once, book covers grabbed us with their evocative designs, asking us to judge their contents. Formatted text sung its own rhythm. Spines out, the books we've read stared down from our shelves as monuments to the mysteries, adventures, and other worlds we've conquered.
Hundreds of books packed end-to-end in a home library is visually impressive, ten times that number as digital files on a Kindle is not. Sorry.
Though more than half of all books are now purchased online, and digital formats (Kindle, Nook, Kobo) have begun to outsell printed copies, there are still places where paper is king. On a peculiar corner of downtown Los Angeles amidst the chaos of shuffling pedestrians and honking taxis stands The Last Bookstore, a welcome oasis for book-lovers.
The space has been in operation since 2005 through the dedication of Josh Spencer and offers not only a vast catalogue of new books, but used too as it is one of the last places in LA that still buys used books. So quickly did their inventory overflow the 10,000 sq. ft. location that they had to open an additional 6,000 foot mezzanine level, the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore, where there are over 100,000 books for only a dollar each. That staggering figure makes them the largest independent bookstore in California.
Not only is the bookstore visually stunning with its white column-supported ceiling and cavernous interior, but every wall and walkway sprouts a piece of art celebrating books themselves. Typewriters spitting endless ribbons of typed pages, books formed into living structures, even entire shelves organized solely by color. The Sci-Fi section, blinking lights and tinny radio adorned of course, hides behind a massive vault door reminiscent of being inside a steel submarine. It's like stepping inside 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Words, ironically, just don't do it justice.
Just about every night there is a new book signing and Speak Easy: Open Mic Mondays draws undiscovered talent to the stage where authors, poets, and musicians can present their material in a creatively supportive space. Unlike most other bookstores crammed with spine out books to maximize their catalogue, The Last Bookstore faces the majority of their books cover-out. This allows browsers to appreciate a physical book's cover art which is an experience almost entirely missing when reading on an e-reader. Topping all that, the bookstore is equipped with an appended coffee shop and vinyl store. If you ever find yourself in downtown LA, you've got yourself some exploring to do.
With mainstream and independent bookstores closing left and right, the place on the corner of 5th and Spring may truly live up to its name as The Last Bookstore.