Last-minute deals at World’s Biggest Bookstore

If you’re a book lover living in Toronto, you should make a point of visiting the World’s Biggest Bookstore before it closes forever this Sunday. Everything is fifty percent off, and while the shelves are definitely looking picked over, there’s still a lot of good stuff to be had. I went there yesterday and left with a stack of books under each arm.

It was a melancholy shopping experience, though. So many bookstores have closed over the past few years, and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. In the very near future, there won’t be anything left but a few Chapters/Indigo shops and the odd used or remaindered bookstore, like Toronto’s BMV chain. The World’s Biggest was actually bought by Chapters about a decade ago, but it never really became a Chapters in look or feel: the staff remained hugely knowledgeable about their inventory, the display tables spotlighted much better books, there were barely any scented candles or yoga mats, and the selection was always the city’s most comprehensive. And because it was somewhat isolated on a downtown side street, the customers always felt like genuine book lovers, not just tired shoppers looking for a place to rest with their Starbucks. (That might sound snobby, but you know what? I don’t care anymore. Dedicated book lovers are losing their last few public refuges—to chain restaurants, condos and clothing stores—and we have a right to be bitter about it.)

As of yesterday, portions of the two-and-a-half-story shop were already clear of inventory—the staff keep consolidating what remains, presumably to keep things tidy. The general fiction section was getting quite sparse, as was the history section and the horror section. But there was still a lot left in mystery, science fiction, fantasy, arts, sports, business, and several other categories. There are also quite a few recent titles still to be had, like 2013 Giller Prize–winner Lynn Coady’s Hellgoing and Chris Hadfield’s An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, both of which were there in bulk quantities.

The lineups at the cash are longer than usual, of course, but not odious; I waited about five minutes. If the lure of cheap books isn’t enough to convince you to visit over the weekend, you should know that, by buying what’s left, you’re helping publishers, too. Whatever titles aren’t sold by the end of the sale get sent back to them, which means they won’t get a dime. The larger publishers can endure this, but smaller publishers are likely to suffer. So for the love o’ books: get down there and buy something! Even if you somehow manage to leave empty handed, you can pay your last respects to a vanishing industry.