Best and Cheap Books, Records, Tapes, Magazines, and Gifts in Columbus OH
The Book Shop Open in the Storm
Book shops can be gathering places, especially during a storm. What better place to find where you can enjoy a cup of coffee, a book, and the latest news publications?
For example, in autumn 2008, the end of Hurricane Ike hit the Midwest, interrupting electrical power in our neighborhood for almost a week. No lights, no cell towers working, no Internet. The sky was almost green with the strange winds that blew over tall trees that blocked roads and driveways. Auto batteries died and cell phone towers went down. Traffic lights blacked out.
Other neighborhoods were crippled by power outages for two to three weeks or longer. Some businesses closed entirely and their employees looked for somewhere to go, because their homes were also without power. It was like the classic film The Day the Earth Stood Still. An emergency shelter at the Ohio State Fair Grounds opened quickly in one of its largest buildings and many people stayed there, some with their pets.
However, two businesses in our neighborhood were still powered up and open - a restaurant and across the street, Half Price Books on North High Street. The bookstore was the busier of the two.
If you don't have Half Price Books stores in your area, and even if you do, make sure to visit this one when you're in Columbus, Ohio (named the Intelligent City of the Year for 2015).
Save Money, Escape the Storm
Half Price Books, Records, Magazines, Inc.
- 5070 North High Street; Columbus OH 43214
During Hurricane Ike, as always, our Half Price Books offered free fresh-brewed coffee and tea. The store was full of customers from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm and these patrons enjoyed gathering somewhere friendly, rather than to sit in the dark at home. In 2010, when our public libraries suffered budget cuts that forced reductions in most libraries' hours, this Half Price Books store experienced a new influx of patrons, especially since it is located on a major bus line near shopping, banks, and restaurants.
Not only is the store open during some disasters and when the libraries are closed, but it is also open on many holidays, with special sales and even contests.
The store provides several sturdy hardwood chairs and step stools for individuals to use while browsing. Some patrons sit on the carpeted floors. A few lightweight cane armchairs are also available. The children's section has child-sized chairs and a table or two at which the kids can gather to look at picture books, read, and play games.
Washrooms are clean and attractively decorated and in the nearby hallway is a display of photos and maps of the historic Olentangy Park amusement park. It was located at the end of the streetcar line in Clintonville a few miles to the south of the store, until streetcars were retired from service.
Things we believe no one should waste: paper, knowledge, trees, words, time, and money.— Half Price Books, Records & Tapes
One Half Price Neighborhood: Clintonville/Beechwold
Kroger grocery, Bob Evans, two health clubs, office supplies, salon supplies, ethic restaurants, Applebees, Target, clothiers. Major bus lines.
Once a Street Car Amusement Park, the complex is an apartment community that uses the old Chute the Chutes lake as a centerpiece.
Waste Not, Read a Lot
All of the sections of a public library appear in this Half Price Books, including collectible and rare books and magazines. In an era in which bookstores are attempting to resemble libraries and libraries renovating to become more contemporary, Half Price Books is a bit of both. In addition, everything in the store is half price and less, including new items.
Gently used items come from personal collections, attic stashes, and estates. The store can purchase any media except newspapers.
Whatever type of book, movie, CD, DVD, gift item, new game, old cassette tape, vinyl records, dime novel, and even some 8 Track Tapes you may want, you can likely find it here. A stand of free community newspapers sits at the front door as well.
The new Twilight and New Moon series are available alongside the old Dracula; CSI and Law and Order beside Charlie Chan and Mr. Moto. In the back of the store, the clearance shelves display books and other items from 25 cents to $2.00 and sometimes you’ll find a signed first edition on those shelves. For collectors of valuable books, a locked glass case sits near the checkout stand for browsing and staff is always available to open it.
Some Other Services
- Gift Cards
- 10% Educator Discount Card
- Half Pint Books – Books donated to hospitals
- National Literacy Month
- Yearly Short Story Contest
- Advocacy for First Amendment Rights
- Environmental Initiative
- Music by the Book
(Not bad for a chain that started as a second hand bookshop in a Dallas laundromat during the disco days. Have a look at their website for a full history and services.)
A New Store Opening
Out of Print Books and Unexpected Treasures
This is the shop in which I exci8edly found my copies of the Number 10 Ox stories by Barry Hughart – The author only wrote three books and I had been looking for them for at least 10 years. Several of the Harlan Ellison® classics were also on the shelves and I found copies of many classic books and magazines from the Golden Age of Science Fiction. These finds included The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, the works of Fritz Leiber, Cliff Simak, and L. Sprague DeCamp; and all of Ray Bradbury’s books and films.
Historical books fill several aisles at Half Price Books. They are not dry and boring and some are first editions. Several concern the early American Space Program and the Apollo 11 moon landing. A children’s book on the shelves discusses Michael Collins, the astronaut that stayed aboard Apollo 11 while his teammates Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong explored below and how Collins was contented never to go up again after flying across the dark side of the moon many times. It is an account I have never read in the papers or seen on YouTube, but it is on the shelf at Half Price Books.
Reporter and photographer Jeff Sutton (1913 - 1979) wrote a historical novel I found at Half Price Books. It is Apollo at Go , published in 1963, 6 years before Apollo 11 went up. Sutton eerily set the date of an American moon landing to within mere days of July 20, 1969. He had been writing moon stories since 1958 and had completed 20 novels of science fiction, politics, war, and stories for youth. He also wrote for the aviation magazine called Flying , the US Department of the Air Force magazine Flying Safety , and the USAF Institute of Technology journal known as Contact . His collection of private papers is considered very important, housed in the Jefferson Sutton Science Fiction Collection at San Diego State University, and not available online at this time. I knew nothing of him before browsing the aisles at Half Price Books.
Speaking of history, I found an analysis and discussion of George Washington's expense accounts for his work in the Revolutionary War. The book is quite entertaining as well as informative – Washington made a lot of money.
Many of these items at Half Price Books are no longer stocked in public libraries or are too unusual to ever be there.
HPB Tote Bag
Variety In Merchandise
Mystery lovers find all types of genre novels, magazines, and comics in the store, from cozies police procedurals, and hard-boiled detective stories, to blood and guts thrillers. Earle Stanley Gardner titles in the Perry Mason and Donald Lam/Bertha Cool series show up regularly, even hard to find titles. Leonard Elmore's, Rex Stout’s, Kinky Friedman's, Dean Koontz's and Sue Grafton's books all appear, to name a few. You can even find occasional pulp fiction magazines from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s (mysteries, science fiction, and westerns).
Cookbooks and videos, popular films, romance novels, political books, classic literature, Manga, children's books and DVDs, and dozens of other genres of entertainment are available in this store. A clearance bin of cassette tapes is fun, and the tables of CDs are surprising.
Gifts items are displayed attractively around the store and at the check stands. Shopping bags made from recycled materials, beverage mugs, musical greeting cards, art calendars, date books, book lights, streamline headphones, iPod covers, knitting kits, cooking sets, and other hobby and craft items can fulfill nearly any gift shopping list. Many of the new coffee table photography books are ideal gifts in themselves.
Collectibles also make fresh gift ideas from historic pieces - one friend completed her collection of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Mysteries with help from the shelves of Half Price Books.
Jigsaw puzzles are particularly popular. They are always new and unopened, but discounted at least 50%. I send them to puzzle collectors. One friend assembles them, glues them to a backing, and mounts them as artwork for the walls. Another puts a puzzle together, then disassembles it and trades with other friends or passes it on to nieces and nephews. Some of the puzzles I've found are 1,000 or 1,500 piece puzzles with a different picture on either side for more challenging fun. The store also carries jigsaw puzzles for pre-schoolers and elementary school children.
Half Price Books donates to community organizations all year, to schools, childcare centers, and adult education facilities and other places. When I worked with GED, after-school, work training, and summer programs, our agency received many books that were good for educational and leisure reading. Some of our students even entered the yearly short story contest that the company sponsors to supports literacy projects. The winners are published in a yearly collection called Good Night To Illiteracy.
Take a look at the company link for more information and stop by when you're in town!
YouTube Credit: Half Price Books video collection at