Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
The independent bookstore is a dying species, edging closer toward extinction with online booksellers and eBooks.
Not in Boulder, though.
Boulder still cherishes its locally owned indie stores that sell books, made out of paper, that you can hold with your hands. So much, in fact, that Boulder has a number of independent bookstores to choose from.
There are smaller ones, like Red Letter Second Hand Used Books and the Lighthouse Bookstore, both on Pearl Street. There are niche stores like Innisfree, which specializes in poetry and Time Warp, especially for comics. There are stores just for students, like the University of Colorado bookstore on campus. Trade in your old books at Bookworm. Challenge your mind at Om Books and Gifts.
Boulder’s selection of local bookstores is extraordinary.
Two of the most popular and beloved local bookstores, however, are located a short walk apart on opposite sides of the west Pearl Street Mall. Boulder Book Store and Trident Booksellers are two long-time Boulder staples. And they’re as different as can be. Both have their own role in the Boulder community and attract their own die-hard fans.
Here’s a look at what makes these two local bookstores unique.
Trident BookSellers and Cafe
940 Pearl St.
Trident epitomizes Boulder. It’s cerebral, diverse, a bit quirky and very welcoming. This bookstore is pretty small, with a curated selection of new and used books, many eclectic. You can find a variety of topics here, but the emphasis is on the things that get Boulder excited, like religion, culture and art.
It’s Trident’s small handpicked selection that makes it unique. You can’t find everything here but you can definitely find something inspiring. Often surprising.
Trident has deep Boulder roots; it first opened in 1979.
Trident describes itself as “a Boulder original,” and any local will agree. Trident is a part of Boulder’s heart.
Another unique feature of Trident is that it’s connected with a busy cafe and coffee shop. (The Boulder Book Store used to have a coffee shop called Bookends, but it has since changed.)
Trident claims its cafe is “internationally famous” for its drinks (we’re not sure how to quantify that, but it’s always so packed you probably can’t get a table). As is fitting for a shop like this, Trident serves small-batch, locally roasted espresso made by Dragonfly Coffee Roasters. Trident also offers quality loose-leaf tea from around the world, with a selection that changes with the seasons. You can find everything from green teas to oolongs and herbals. You can also get typical coffee shop snacks, like pastries.
Trident also has outdoor tables, so you can buy a new book, get a tea and read it outside on the small Pearl Street patio.
Like any good local bookstore, Trident offers special events, such as book readings, as well as some more surprising activities, like live music and event plays. You can also sell your used books here.
Boulder Book Store
1107 Pearl St.
Not far from Trident is the Boulder Book Store, which looks like a regular store from the mall, until you walk in and realize there are three levels and multiple back rooms. The Boulder Book Store keeps going on and on, for a whopping 20,000 square feet. It’s Boulder’s biggest independent bookstore, with more than 100,000 books.
Whereas Trident is quaint and curated, you can find whatever you want (and even things you never knew you wanted) in the Boulder Book Store. It does comb through titles for shoppers, too; in the front of the store are great shelves of recommended titles.
The Boulder Book Store is one of the most happenin’ event spaces in town. It holds more than 200 events every year (more than 200 authors visit this store annually!), so there are many new things to choose from every week. People gather here for book signings and readings, some that attract hundreds of people. Sometimes Boulder Book Store events are so popular, drawing upwards of a 1,000 people, that they have to move to a nearby church or even the Boulder Theater. Big name authors appear here. We’re talking Deepak Chopra, Garrison Keillor, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Gilbert and Chelsea Handler.
The store also hosts multiple book clubs that are open to the public. The Boulder Book Store, which opened in 1973 in a different location but still on the Pearl Street Mall, has earned such a reputation that it reports its bestseller list to The New York Times and Denver Post.
When the Boulder Book Store opened, it had just 10 bookcases. Today, it’s a monstrous influence on town.
Fun fact: The bookstore was designed by a feng shui consultant.
Find a little nook in the basement or on the top floor and browse through titles to find one that captures you. This store also has a great selection of stunning journals and notebooks, any writer’s dream.