Located in Portland, Oregon, Powell’s Books is an independent bookstore selling new and used books and literature-themed gifts, offering five locations throughout the greater Portland area. The vision for Powell’s Books was inspired by University of Chicago student Michael Powell, who opened a bookstore in Chicago in 1970 with the help of his father, Walter.
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Inspired by his son’s ambitions, Powell returned to Portland and opened his own used bookstore, Powell’s Books, the following year. The original Powell’s Books location, housed in a former Northwest Burnside car dealership, grew to become the largest combination new-used bookstore in the world, offering an inventory of more than one million books by the early 21st century. Michael Powell returned to Portland in 1979 to help with the expansion of the Powell’s Books chain, which now encompasses five stores throughout the greater Portland area.
Today, Powell’s Books is a major Portland-area cultural institution, owned and operated by Michael Powell’s daughter, Emily. More than two million volumes are contained within the store’s book inventory, which is available at five stores across the Portland area and online internationally through the chain’s website. As a family-owned and community-oriented business, Powell’s Books strives to connect Portland and the world with the culture of literature through a variety of book selling programs, educational workshops, and cultural demonstrations and events.
The original Powell’s store, Powell’s City of Books, is located on West Burnside Street in Portland’s Pearl District and houses a collection of more than one million volumes, the largest combination new-used collection in the world. The City of Books location occupies a full city block, offering nine unique rooms of books featuring more than 3,500 individual sections organized by content and topic. Of note is the store’s Rare Book Room, which houses an extensive collection of autographed first edition books and other hard-to find and out-of-print selections. The store’s Basil Hallward Gallery also hosts a wide variety of events throughout the year, including author and artist readings and lectures.
On Portland’s West Side, the 32,500-square-foot Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing location offers more than half a million volumes in a quiet setting with a large amount of seating for reading and relaxation. A large children’s section, extensive sci-fi collection, a wide array of board games for sale and in-store play are also offered. To the southeast, the Powell’s Books on Hawthorne and Powell’s Books for Home and Garden joint location offers two distinct stores, a 10,000-square-foot main retail store and a specialty store focusing on volumes related to cooking, gardening, decorating, and crafting. International home goods and gift items are also sold at the Home and Garden store. The Powell’s Books at PDX store, located within Portland International Airport’s marketplace, was opened in 1988 and has been noted as a top airport shopping destination in the United States by the Huffington post, offering a large variety of used and new books and toys, gifts, and souvenirs.
In addition to standard book sales, Powell’s Books also buys used books from customers at all five retail locations and online through their website. All books are assessed either via physical book drop-off locations or by entering book ISBN numbers online, and customers receive an offer based on title, condition, and demand within one to two days. Cash, PayPal, and store credit are offered in exchange for accepted book bids. Bids confirmed online offer free shipping to Powell’s via UPS Ground service, with most titles arriving at the warehouse within two to three weeks maximum. All books must be in good resale condition and all bids must contain at least seven books or at least $9.00 in total returned customer credit. Book club editions, advanced reader copies, print-on-demand titled, and uncorrected proof editions are not accepted, and rare, collectible, and pre-ISBN volumes are only accepted in person at physical Powell’s locations with advanced arrangements. Customers looking to sell large or special collections should also contact Powell’s directly to make special arrangements for collection evaluation.
Ongoing Programs and Events
More than 500 public special events are held throughout the year across Powell’s five locations, including author readings, lectures, and signings related to a variety of literary and cultural topics. Children’s storytime events are hosted on Saturday mornings, and a monthly Young Adult Book Club invites teens to discuss current young adult literature releases. The Westside Writing Group also invites amateur nonfiction and memoir writers to the Cedar Hills Crossing location twice a month, and Science Fiction Book Group meets at the location monthly. Other public special events include game and cooking demonstrations, First Thursday events, and an American Sign Language reading group.
1005 W Burnside St., Portland, OR 97209, Phone: 800-878-7323