49 W 45th Street, New York, NY
About six years ago I worked a block from this multimedia shop, which stands within the general sphere of the Times Square area of Manhattan, and I used to make a habit of going about once a week. While it’s not my favorite bookstore, I went that often for two reasons: dollar books, and deeply discounted classic movies. I recently passed by on a NYC visit and I stopped in to see if the place held up after all this time, and it certainly does.
Here’s the thing about Book Off: they have a lot of books, but the collection is split about 50-50 between books and movies, music, video games, and toys over three levels. I like to browse through their extensive DVD collection for older classic films that are harder to find on streaming services and I routinely find great Criterion and noir films here, for some as little as $2.50, which was the price for a two-disc set of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic on this latest trip. But to be fair, I also saw some marked way up, close to $30 for a few, so it really varies. More recent titles tend to be cheaper because more people try to sell those back, so it all depends on what you’re looking for.
As for the books, about a third of them aren’t in English. They have a large selection of what I think are Japanese titles and translations, as well as a robust Manga section downstairs, so if that’s your thing, this is definitely the shop for you. As for the English language books, they are evenly divided between fiction and nonfiction and both sections are discounted. Many are at least half off or more, such as a hardback version of Charles Johnson’s Night Hawks (which I should have bought but I thought I already had a copy…dang) but the real deals are found along the walls and in the multiple carts full of $1 books. They’re all used, but they’re in pretty good shape or are close to new, so you’re getting a good deal here.
The shop gets a little crowded and there are a lot of areas to explore, but if you can wrangle through the aisles and bring a list of books you’ve been meaning to read, I bet you’ll dross off a few and save a lot of money doing so. Or you can just go and see what finds you instead. It definitely has that feel to it. Either way, if you’re going to fight through the Times Square crowds, you may as well hit a bookshop while you’re at it. Jump in and see what you find!
Atmosphere — It almost feels like a Best Buy with a big book section on Black Friday in here, just mobs of people rifling through discounted books, DVDs, games, and more.
Quality — The books were all used but in good shape.
Quantity — They have a large selection of fiction and nonfiction, covering a lot of major categories. It’s not Strand, but they have three floors, enough to keep you busy on a lunch break.
Diversity — A solid range of fiction, children’s nonfiction, Manga if that’s you’re thing, and lots of Japanese translations. They also have games, consoles, DVDs, toys, and comics.
Affordability — The prices are usually worth it, especially the dollar section. Some of the movies and games get pricer.
Amenities — They have a couple chairs, but not many. It’s usually crowded, so you’re there to browse on the move. They also buy your old books, which is great.
Location — It’s just a couple blocks from the heart of Times Square, not too far from Bryant Park and Grand Central Station.
Customer Service — The staff were really busy at the front desk buying and sorting new inventory.
Overall — This is a store with a lot of diamonds in the rough, but you have to be willing to search. I didn’t always leave with a book, but whenever I did I felt like I got a great deal. Lots to look through, and lots of movies and music too, so go with an open mind and let the deals find you.