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Browsing for books in Red Deer, Alberta

As every book lover knows, indulging in a good read and browsing for books in a good bookstore can bring one to equal levels of euphoria. While Edmonton offers a grand selection of used bookstores, a smaller town with a more limited offering of book-lovers’ dens can be more appealing considering things like traffic, distance, prices, and that good old fashioned small town feel that most big city dwellers have not experienced. That is why a review of two very diverse bookstores in Red Deer, Alberta— The Bookworm’s Den and The Red Deer Book Exchange—is in order.

The Bookworm’s Den:

As the name implies, The Bookworm’s Den is a tiny little shop cozily stuffed with every conceivable item relating to books of all and any kind. Situated in the picturesque core of Red Deer’s downtown area, The Bookworm’s Den faces Ross Street with a comic covered bay window and an old, weathered door inset into a crevice in the building’s exterior.

Unlike many other bookstores, The Bookworm’s Den offers all types of books for all types of people. You collect comics? Check out the large variety of comics situated at the very front of the store. Here, there are glossy X-Men comics and old, ratty Archie comics just waiting to be brought home with you. Likewise, this store offers a variety of book and movie related posters and t-shirts—most of them outrageously retro (in a cool way, of course)—which hang above book browsers' heads.

If you are looking for classics, The Bookworm’s Den offers a great collection of inexpensive (five dollars, anyone?) classics, from Dickens to Hardy, and from Shakespeare to Anna Sewell. Most of these books are a little worn, which happens to be my favourite type of book, but once in a while one can get lucky and find a little jewel amongst the rabble.

Organizationally speaking, the Bookworm’s Den is broken up into such categories as general fiction, classics, comics, more pricey comics, non-fiction, and Canadiana. Here, one will not run into the problem of trying to find the appropriate section. All the books are pretty well organized into thoughtful (if not down-right ergonomic) categories.

Here, one can peruse the books in leisure, listening to CKUA’s jazzy tunes and feeling generally nostalgic about the death of small bookstores. Once you have made your selections, you don’t need to worry about fancy point systems, or a ridiculously long and pointless conversation about books that you would never read. The owner is an extremely polite man, content to chat only as much as you wish, who accepts only old fashioned cash for your purchases.

The only downsides to this cozy little den are that the owner accepts only cash—a fact that has sent many running across the street to the local Royal Bank. Likewise, the shop is a little more untidy, a little older looking and musty smelling, and a little worse for wear. This, however, may also lend to the appeal of The Bookworm’s Den since there is nothing better than perusing much loved books in a much loved store.

The Red Deer Book Exchange:

Situated on the north end of Red Deer, The Red Deer Book Exchange has a demeanor that differs greatly from the Bookworm’s Den. In a spacious and brightly lit store, the books are relegated to their shelves in an appealing, family friendly way that allows room for multitudes of browsers at any given time.
In this warm and cheerful store, one is always welcomed by the gracious owner as if they were welcomed home by their long lost brother. This perpetuates a friendly feeling of home about the large store that is encouraged by a little reading section complete with a cozy rocker.

Here, in a more family oriented setting, The Red Deer Book Exchange offers a cleaner atmosphere with books that are clearly of a higher physical quality. You are definitely more likely to find an un-creased book spine here than you are at The Bookworm’s Den.

Amongst the generously filled shelves, the book categories are clearly demarcated with the general standards of fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, etc. One does, however, miss the small classics section so conveniently offered by The Bookworm’s Den.

If you are taking books to this store, be aware that only the higher quality books will be accepted. Likewise, if they already have a few copies of one title, they may reject your stock. Fortunately, they offer a free recycling program in order to help save trees and, perhaps, the ever-delicate human conscience.

Unlike The Bookworm’s Den, The Red Deer Book Exchange does not offer any old fashioned solutions to purchasing books. Instead, browsers must understand a two-tiered point system and, if they have exchanged books, must remember how many points they have been rewarded. More importantly, despite the point system, these books are a bit more expensive than they are in The Bookworm’s Den. While the system works well, it can sometimes be cumbersome.

All in all, both The Bookworm’s Den and The Red Deer Book Exchange offer two different, but equally valuable, experiences. Whether you are looking for a wholesome, super-cleanly family affair or are hoping to browse the beautifully ragged underbelly of used fiction, each of these stores can turn out to be the gem that you are looking for.

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