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Half Price Books is closing

Seattle says goodbye to its last location

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HPB Closing

Much to the surprise and dismay of many, our beloved University District Half Price Books on Roosevelt Way NE will be closing its doors April 9. 

Walking into the store on Friday, I was first greeted by “50% off Storewide Blowout” signs on the front windows. Inside, the store was littered with brown boxes. The display that usually greets customers at the front was gone. Many of the shelves were empty, but many of them were still full. In fact, the shelves had their own signs on them: their selling price. One of them had already been sold. This store is clearly trying to get rid of everything.

I had been here barely two months ago, and back then there was no indication that the store would be closing in the near future. It begs the question: How long ago did Half Price know it would be closing?

One of the employees I talked to said that they had known about the closing since October. However, the store had not shown it until about a month ago. 

The original Half Price Books originated in 1972 in Dallas, in what used to be an old laundromat. Currently, there are over 120 locations throughout the country. The University District location opened about 30 years ago.

When I asked one of the employees why the store was closing, he said they “couldn’t make it work,” before changing his answer to “I don’t know.” I heard another employee tell a customer that “the lease was up” and that they were “not making enough money.”

The reason is most likely a combination of these factors. Ever since the rise of e-books and giant booksellers like Amazon, independent bookstores have suffered. The Half Price Books in Capitol Hill closed back in 2013. Even the University Book Store closed its Bellevue location back in February.  

Not only that, but because of the new upzone legislation that passed, the land values in the U-District are set to increase in the near future. 

What is surprising is that none of the more reputable news sources, such as The Seattle Times, have done any stories about Half Price closing. Even the official Half Price Books website has no word of it. In fact, it almost seems as if the whole thing has been kept under wraps. It is also possible that bookstore closings are not deemed “important” enough to write about.

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According to their public relations manager, Half Price intends to open up again once they find another location in the Puget Sound area. However, the Half Price in Capitol Hill promised the same thing back when it closed, and to date there is no word of them making good on their promise. 

Half Price will be waiting out the next three days to close. I went in again Sunday, and while it was slightly more picked over, there was still a great selection.

The rest of the books that are not sold will be either donated, sold online, or sold elsewhere.

There are still seven Half Price Books locations open in Washington state, but unfortunately, none of them are within walking distance from the UW. 

Get your fill of used books before the store is gone forever. They currently have a deal where they give you a red bag and anything you can put in there will be $20. The bag is the perfect size to raid the medieval history section.

If you are looking for used books after April 9, there is still Magus Books on NE 42nd Street and in Ravenna, Third Place Books on 20th Avenue NE.


Reach writer Cristen Jansson at Twitter: @cristenjansson

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