Books of Bloomington: 5 Best Bookshops & Libraries

Books of Bloomington: 5 Best Bookshops & Libraries

While Bloomington, Indiana is primarily known for being home to Indiana University’s flagship campus, the city has many other things to offer, including annual cultural festivals, a vibrant food scene, and music venues for any genre. Oh, and books. Lots of books.

Here are five of Bloomington’s best book spots to check out if you’re ever in town.


 Half Price Books

The publishing industry is responsible for 172,000 new titles and 4.15 billion books a year. Recycled paper represents just 5-10% of these new books.

According to a study conducted in 2008, the carbon foot print of a new book is 8.85 lbs and the total carbon foot print of the book industry is 12.4 million metric tons. The biggest contributor to the industry’s carbon footprint is using virgin paper, i.e. paper that comes directly from harvested trees. This harvest of forests accounts for 62.7% of the industry’s total carbon footprint.[1]

So how do you offset the environmental impact of your reading hobby? Used books, of course!

With Half Price Books, there’s no compromise in selection. They have a glut of inventory, with everything from sweaty romance and the latest best seller to astrophysics and poetry. And the best part is, you don’t have to compromise on values. They are family owned and community-oriented. According to their website, HPB is committed to increasing literacy and engaging with environmental concerns. In 2016 alone, the company donated or recycled over 1 million books.[2]


Caveat Emptor

Caveat Emptor is, in many ways, the quintessential used bookstore. If I’m being honest, it does lack certain platonic used-book-store ideals, such as leather arm chairs, a fireplace, and a crotchety kitty. As soon as you walk in, however, you know you’re in a place where you’ll find your next literary love. The place is packed with giant bookshelves, more than the space can really hold, and all of them are crammed full of books from every genre and time period you could hope for. You can find books from across the last century of decades, grubby pages, endnotes, dog-eared pages and all. There’s also a cabinet with special, rare, and signed editions.

Caveat Emptor has been selling books in Bloomington for over 40 years.[3] The business is locally owned and specializes in rare and antiquarian volumes. For most of its existence, the store was owned by Janis Starcs. Starcs sold the business in September to long-time used book lovers and owners of an online bookstore, Catherine and Eric Brown. In an interview with the local student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, new owners Catherine and Eric said they bought the place in fear of what Bloomington would lose by the closing of a literary establishment.[4]


The Book Corner

The Book Corner is, if not an imaginatively-named place, at least exactly what you'd expect. The shop is located at the corner of West Kirkwood Avenue and North Walnut Street and it sells books. Walking in, the place lacks the homey atmosphere of a used-book shop, but it carries the excitement of new possibilities. All the volumes in the store are brand, beautifully new with unbent pages and crisp, unbroken spines. The selection tends towards the modern, the glossy, the shiny, and snappy. There are beautiful Penguin special editions in all their cloth-bound gorgeousness and new releases and best sellers


 The Wells Library at Indiana University

If you’ve ever dreamed of walking into a building that is filled from the basement to the topmost floors with shelves and shelves of books, then this is the place for you. The main library of Indiana University at Bloomington , the library is home to its primary literary collection, with over 4.6 million volumes housed in the Wells building alone. All told, IUB has 18 campus libraries, annual expenditures of more than $40 million, and more than 7 million volumes.[5]

If you wish to visit, you can register for a Guest Account, which allows you full access to the IUB online resources.[6]


The Lilly Library

The Lilly Library represents IUB’s principal collection of rare books, manuscripts, and special collections. The Library holds more than 400,000 volumes, more than 100,000 pieces of sheet music, and more than 7.5 million manuscripts.

In many ways, however, the most unique aspect of the Lilly Library is that it’s open to anyone. That’s right! Anyone interested in the library’s rich compendium of literary and musical pieces is allowed to visit and request to view them.

To request an item from the Lilly catalogue, create an account at


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