San Francisco’s Best Independent Bookstores

February 17, 2011 11:55 AM

A performance at the Bird and Beckett Bookstore in Glen Park. (Credit:

The San Francisco Bay Area is filled with readers who appreciate their local independent booksellers, making it one of the best book markets in the country. Hopefully, publishers will continue to work with hardware vendors to develop common platforms for selling electronic books in order to maintain quality and choice. With online vendors such as Amazon now selling more electronic books than hard copy, the thought of a future without independent choices is worrisome.
birdbecket San Franciscos Best Independent Bookstores

A performance at the Bird and Beckett Bookstore in Glen Park. (Credit:

Bird and Beckett

653 Chenery Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 586-3733
Bird and Beckett

Nestled along a quiet street in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood, Bird and Beckett is named after jazz horn player Charlie Parker and Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. It has carved out a niche that its two celebrity namesakes would enjoy, not to mention the legions of customers who prefer buying books from owner Eric Whittington rather than online. The store features shelves of hot-off-the press bestsellers, a panoply of used and literary paperbacks and racks of periodicals and newspapers. Best of all, Bird and Beckett features music each Friday evening, including some of San Francisco’s most accomplished jazz stylists such as drummer Jimmy Ryan, guitarist Scott Forster, saxophonists Chuck Peterson and Howe Dudune and vocalist, Dorothy Lefkowitz. 

Book Bay

San Francisco Public Library, Civic Center
30 Grove Street
San Francisco, Calif. 94102
415 557-4238
Book Bay

Fort Mason Center
Building C, Room 165
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 771-1076

Operated by the very savvy bookselling staff of Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, Book Bay has two stores, one in the San Francisco Main Library and one at Fort Mason Center in the Marina. Both offer great bargains for quality used books. Book Bay Main is smaller and busier, due to its heavily trafficked location in downtown Civic Center, but Fort Mason offers Bay views and Blue Bottle Coffee as an added enticement. Don’t miss the 46th Annual Big Book Sale,  Sept. 22- 26, 2010 at Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion.

Books Inc.

Ten Bay Area locations, including stores in the Marina, Laurel Village, Castro and Opera Plaza in San Francisco
Books Inc.

Billed as the oldest independent bookseller in the west, Books Inc. has 11 stores, with ten in the Bay Area and one in Anaheim. Compass Books (a Books Inc. store) at the San Francisco International Airport features magazines and newspapers, quality hardcover books, trade and mass market paperbacks, children’s and teen books, plus an excellent selection of greeting cards – a great find for the book-starved traveler.  Books Inc. offers author readings at its Bay Area stores, but if you have a flight to catch, count on quick and efficient service.  Author readings, book clubs and support of city-wide programs such as One City One Book are a given at Books Inc.

Book Passage 

Corte Madera
51 Tamal Vista Blvd.
Corte Madera, Calif. 94925
(415) 927-0960
(800) 999-7909
Book Passage

San Francisco
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 835-1020
Book Passage

With stores in Corte Madera as well as the Ferry Building in San Francisco, Book Passage has carved out a major niche for author readings, writing seminars and an excellent newsletter detailing all of their wonderful programs. Whereas Ferry Plaza caters slightly more to tourism with abundant local travel guides, both stores offer excellent customer service as well as well read staff who love to share reading suggestions.


1644 Haight Street 
San Francisco, Calif. 94117
(415) 863-8688

One of the keys to small business success in San Francisco is the ability to cater to local needs. This point is well illustrated by Booksmith, located in the legendary Haight Ashbury neighborhood.  Booksmith offers author discussions, story times for children, book clubs and more, including book discussions co-sponsored by the literary magazine The Rumpus. It is all conveniently located on Haight Street, where the store caters to tony Cole Valley residents as well as the residents of the Haight.

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