A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘world’s biggest bookstore

[URBAN NOTE] Five Toronto links: John Tory, planetarium, condos, Liberty Village, Edward VIII

  • Toronto has been unified around John Tory, May Warren argues at the Toronto Star, largely because of Doug Ford.
  • Urban Toronto notes an exciting University of Toronto proposal for a new planetarium downtown. I would definitely go for that!
  • Urban Toronto notes</u. that excavation has begun for Panda Condominiums, at the former site of the World’s Biggest Book Store.
  • blgoTO notes a Liberty Village intersection with massive new projects on every corner.
  • Jamie Bradburn looks at the scant traces of King Edward VIII in Toronto, at Yonge and Eglinton and at Exhibition Place.

[URBAN NOTE] “What the World’s Biggest Bookstore looks like now”

blogTO’s Derek Flack notes that the site of the former World’s Biggest Bookstore will now house condos.

When last we wrote about the future of the World’s Biggest Bookstore site, the widely publicized plan was to erect a restaurant row at 20 Edward St. As it happens, this was a short-lived scheme. Back in late January, a zoning amendment application (PDF) was submitted to the city, one which called for a 35 storey mixed-use development.

There will still be retail at grade, but the scale of the units suggests that restaurants won’t be the plan (think big name corporate retail). If food is part of the mix at 20 Edward St., it will likely be at the underground level. The development also calls for 242 parking spaces and 610 spots for bikes.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 9, 2015 at 7:08 pm

[PHOTO] On the site of the World’s Biggest Bookstore

I passed by the former site of the World’s Biggest Bookstore in the course of my travels Saturday. Very little was left, apart from some walls on the eastern end and the vast lot itself, filled with rubble.

On the site of the World's Biggest Bookstore (1)

On the site of the World's Biggest Bookstore (2)

On the site of the World's Biggest Bookstore (3)

On the site of the World's Biggest Bookstore (4)

Written by Randy McDonald

April 6, 2015 at 12:25 pm

[PHOTO] Bikes in front of former World’s Biggest Bookstore

Bikes in front of former World's Biggest Bookstore

As Ryerson’s nearly-completed student centre rises in the background, the half-demolished World’s Biggest Bookstore sits exposed to the warm Christmas air.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 31, 2014 at 12:51 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares photos of the destruction of the World’s Biggest Bookstore.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at a proposal for interstellar slingshots.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that tidally-locked Earth analogues will be habitable, avoiding scenarios where all their water is trapped on the nightside unless they have too little water.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes a paper studying mechanisms for creating Ganymede’s grooves.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Alex Harrowell is skeptical of separatism in Catalonia, as in other relatively rich European regions, where it involves a desire to separate from poorer areas.
  • Language Hat links to a paper suggesting that Taiwan is not the ultimate homeland of the Austronesian language family.
  • Robert Farley of Lawyers, Guns and Money links to an article of his commenting on what China learned from the Gulf War of 1991.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that Brazil once enjoyed roaring economic growth until the 1980s. Is this China’s future?
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw has a forum post seeking to explore stereotypes of Australia, as a country as a whole and as component regions.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to an article suggesting that the shrinkage of Russia’s working-age population may lead to a decline of the oil industry, if it lacks sufficient workers.
  • Torontoist looks at the new TTC Pioneer Village station being worked on.
  • Towleroad notes furor creating by the decision of a transgender woman to bury her as a man.
  • Towleroad looks at problems with PReP.
  • Window on Eurasia notes non-recognition of Crimean annexation and suggests that Russian minorities outside Russia are now in a weaker position because of Russian irredentism.

[LINK] Some Monday links

  • Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell is skeptical of Josh Marshall’s new journalism site featuring paid advertisements from Big Pharma.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird provides another update about Ukrainian events.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that World Vision Canada, unlike its American counterpart, is legally required not to discriminate against non-heterosexuals.
  • Language Hat links to a study on the formerly Russophone Alaskan community of Ninilchik.
  • Language Log suggests that handwriting is a dying art in East Asia, too.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a book on maritime conflicts in the South China Sea.
  • The Signal features a guest post from two librarians working for the Library of Congress explaining how they do their work.
  • Savage Minds explains the myth of the sexy librarian.
  • Torontoist has two photos memorializing recently-closed stores, one from the World’s Biggest Bookstore and the other from Sears in the Eaton Centre.

[PHOTO] World’s Biggest Bookstore, 30 March 2014

I’ve been following the World’s Biggest Bookstore (20 Edward Street) as it moved inexorably towards closure. The building will be torn down, eventually to be replaced by a row of restaurants.

This bookstore is now referred to in the past tense at Wikipedia. On today, the World’s Biggest Bookstore’s final day of operation, I visited the location with a friend. The vast empty shelf space surrounded us all. (Thankfully, the 50% off sale seems to have cleared out most of their stock.)

World's Biggest Bookstore (1)

World's Biggest Bookstore (2)

World's Biggest Bookstore (3)

World's Biggest Bookstore (4)

World's Biggest Bookstore (5)

World's Biggest Bookstore (6)

World's Biggest Bookstore (7)

World's Biggest Bookstore (8)

World's Biggest Bookstore (9)

World's Biggest Bookstore (10)

World's Biggest Bookstore (11)

World's Biggest Bookstore (12)

Written by Randy McDonald

March 31, 2014 at 12:34 am

[URBAN NOTE] “The end of an era”

NOW Toronto‘s Jessica Martin writes about the World’s Biggest Bookstore. Now in its final week–it’s actually closing on the 30th–it’s going to be full of memories for many, many people.

Entrepreneur Jack Cole of the Coles bookstore chain opened the store in 1980 to join other landmarks in the area such as A&A Records and Sam the Record Man just around the corner on Yonge.

The flashy signs and iconic oversized discs gracing those storefronts are now gone, and the kitschy, seedy Yonge strip has been sanitized by chain retailers and Ryerson University’s expanding campus.

From the corner of Yonge and Edward, pedestrians looking west can still see the twinkling lights around the bright red letters: World’s Biggest Bookstore. It’s the only sign the store has ever had, and it’s past its prime: some bulbs are burned out, and parts of the B and O are missing.

[. . .]

Even now, a staff member is never more than a couple of shelves away. When a patron asks where to find something, employees answer with such familiarity it’s as if they’re guiding someone through their own home.

“It was a culture where they hired people who were really knowledgeable about books,” says long-time customer Karl Mamer.

For years, Mamer’s Saturday ritual included a visit to the store. With the rise of retailer websites such as Amazon, he doesn’t visit as often. “They are the victim of technology,” he says. “I think they are a relic of the past, but I’m not one who lives in the past.”

Mamer is right. The World’s Biggest is a monument to a bygone era, with its fluorescent lights, highlighter-yellow walls and the ever-present smell of printed paper. The looming end is apparent everywhere: cardboard boxes overflowing with books, red signs flagging what’s on clearance, and a large blue banner announcing the closing date along with addresses of nearby Indigo and Chapters locations.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 25, 2014 at 7:10 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “So the WBB is closing.”

Livejournal’s James Burbidge has a post reflecting on his experience of the World’s Biggest Bookstore. In his experience, it wasn’t all that much.

I remember when it opened. At the time, the Coles chain, which it was a part of, was the very bottom of the barrel as bookstores went. Even in Peterborough, where I lived at the time, it was the last stop if you were looking for something. In Toronto, the top of the pecking order was occupied by Britnell’s and the U of T bookstore, and there was a vibrant collection of good second hand bookstores as well as various other chain and independent bookstores. (This was before W.H. Smith[1] and Coles merged into the monster which would later become Chapters.)

Coles was good only for mass-market paperbacks and for Coles’ Notes. The staff rarely knew much about books. Quality always lost out to price: if you were looking for Shakespeare, for example, you could find Signet Classic editions but never New Arden ones.

The WBB was a bit of a step up — its section mangers, by and large, were relatively knowledgeable, and its larger size meant that, just by brute force, it was more likely to have something you were looking for. But it was, and remained, basically a bigger Coles. If you had been exposed to Foyles in London or FNAC in Paris, its rather grandiose claims to size were a little wearing.

It was a good place to shop for genre paperbacks — it retained an independent ordering policy for a long time, perhaps up to the end — and would frequently have midlist books absent from other stores. It was still worse for SF than Bakka, or for mysteries than Sleuth of Baker Street, but if you worked downtown it was closer. But it would never have the interesting books reviewed in the TLS, for example.

There is fuss, he argues, simply because there has been so much change–specifically, so many stores closing down or being consolidated–in the book retail landscape.

Ignoring the online world, Britnell’s has gone; Nicholas Hoare has gone; Lichtmans has gone. (Ben McNally on Bay street is the last independent bookstore downtown, AFAICT.) W.H. Smith and Coles were swallowed into Chapters which was itself devoured by Indigo and the branches which aren’t Indigo superstores are now IndigoSpirit stores which are (unbelievably) worse than the old Coles stores were (less selection). In the downtown Toronto PATH area two surviving Coles bookstores (in BCE Place and Commerce Court) have closed within the last year.

Go, read.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2014 at 11:05 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Why the World’s Biggest Bookstore is better off closed”

This blogTO post about the soon-to-be-closed World’s Biggest Bookstore by former employee Sarah Khan has gotten wide circulation. This linking is not endorsement.

All I’ll say is that successful bookstores–or at least surviving bookstores–are ones that have diversified beyond selling only books. For a generation, the World’s Biggest Bookstore filled a niche until that niche disappeared, something not aided by the very large floorspace of the bookstore in the Yonge and Dundas area where rents have been rising. Blaming the company for not supporting a store that wasn’t likely to make money no matter what was done when–in fact–the company did support the store for quite some time is nonsensical to me.

Rumours circulated the entire time I worked there about the future of the store. Rumour always had it that Indigo’s CEO, Heather Reisman, wouldn’t agree to renew the lease for the store. The former Coles flagship store, the property was owned by the Cole family who make a tidy sum charging rent for the massive downtown location. However, running a bookstore (especially one of that size) is a losing venture in today’s world of eBooks and digital magazines and the Cole family was wise to sell off the property.

I’m guessing the trouble really started when eBooks starting becoming a big thing. People were enamoured with the new technology and the ease of carrying around a library of books without the weight, but that meant that brick and mortar stores were becoming obsolete. While the United States saw the closing of Borders bookstores across the country, Canada fared better with many of the large format Chapters and Indigo stores remaining open. Reisman’s attempts at diversification of products sold have thus far kept most of the stores in the chain from succumbing to the same fate. However, in the process, she has partially abandoned books.

While we had an impressive selection of books, magazines and DVDs, we couldn’t say the same for our gift merchandise. In fact, when I started there we had no gift merchandise, but rather a clearance section where all the unsellable gift items from other Indigo stores came to die. This clearance section was the bane of everyone’s existence because it was hell to keep tidy and there would always been customers who were dissatisfied with the heavy discount they were already getting and demand more.

When Reisman brought in more gift items to keep brick and mortar stores going, we started getting first hand merchandise as well as an attempt to prove to everyone that we could survive as a book and gift store. But the truth was, we couldn’t.

[. . .]

To be honest, I never actually suspected that the company would decide to close the store down, regardless of the trouble we had keeping up. I always, naively, suspected that the company would finally realize that we were unlike their other cookie-cutter stores and would hold us to different, fairer standards. At the same time, having been under their regime for five years, I knew in my heart of hearts that the store would never be given the same love and attention as the other stores. We were the black sheep of the Indigo family, the odd man out. We were an embarrassment and it seemed like the company was going out of its way to make us fail just so they’d have a reason to shut us down.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 26, 2014 at 8:52 pm