Bookstores are still a treat for me. There is something special about being able to browse, touch and smell the books. It’s rare that I can resist and not buy anything.
A bookstore with a remarkable history can be found in Menlo Park. Kepler’s Books and Magazines, founded in 1955, was the epicenter of counterculture in the ‘60s and ‘70s. For founder Roy Kepler, the exchange and flow of ideas was part of his business. A lot of students and faculty from the nearby Stanford University were patrons and appreciated the idea exchanging approach. In-store concerts from the Grateful Death to Joan Baez made the store popular. But when Kepler embraced paperbacks as an economical vehicle to bring ideas to the masses, it was genius.
You can still feel the progressive energy. On my recent visit I overheard an elderly woman who found a book, reading the title: “We Were Eight Years In Power – An American Tragedy. “ And asked her friend ‘Do you think they mean Reagan?’ and then realizes: “Oh, they mean Obama.”
A staff person asked me if she can help me find anything. I declined ‘I’m just taking it all in’ I replied with a smile.
A few more browses down the aisle, I overheard a man dictating his findings about soccer books including all commas and question marks into his phone.
To compete with online stores, Kepler’s concept of a bookstore expanded and has many interesting events to offer, from speaker series to author lectures. The Kepler’s 2020 Project continues to provide an outstanding bookstore and has developed a community meeting space, with events. Let’s hope they prevail.
Is there an independent bookstore near you?
SFGate: Kepler’s turns another page
Washington Post: How to save an indie bookstore