Bookstores Local Culture Portland Portland Oregon

Powell’s Books: The World’s Largest Independent Bookstore


Powell’s City of Books is the largest used and new bookstore in the world, spanning over 68,000 square feet and housing approximately one million books. The iconic bookstore is located in Portland, Oregon, and it’s one of the city landmarks.

The story behind a legendary bookstore

Powell’s Bookstore was founded in 1971 by Walter Powell, a Chicago native who had a passion for books. The original store was in a former car dealership on Northwest Third Avenue in Portland, Oregon. 

In 1979, Powell’s expanded to its current flagship location at 1005 W Burnside Street. This new store covered an entire city block and had multiple levels, allowing for a substantially larger collection of books.

What made Powell’s bookstore special was its founder’s idea to bring together in a single bookstore new, used, hardcover, and paperback books. Clever, right?

In 1991, Powell’s expanded its footprint by opening Powell’s Technical Books, specializing in technical and scientific publications. Additionally, Powell’s opened two other locations in the Portland area: Powell’s City of Books at Cedar Hills Crossing in 2006 and Powell’s on Hawthorne in 2018.

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Interesting facts about Powell’s Books Bookstore

Here are some interesting facts about Powell City of Books Bookstore in Portland, Oregon:

The largest independent bookstore in the world: Powell’s Books Bookstore is the largest bookstore in the world, housing approximately one million books covering every genre.

Still an independent bookstore: Powell’s is an independent bookstore that has remained family-owned since its founding in 1971. It has become an integral part of the local community, supporting local authors and hosting numerous literary events, author readings, and book signings.

There’s a Rare Books Room: Powell’s features a dedicated Rare Book Room, which houses an exceptional collection of rare, collectible, and first-edition books. This special section attracts collectors and enthusiasts from around the world.

You can order books online: no matter where you are, you can order books from their website!

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Color-coded rooms: Powell’s City of Books has nine color-coded rooms, each dedicated to a specific genre or category. These rooms include sections like fiction, children’s books, science fiction, mystery, and more.

Powell’s buys around 3,000 used books daily, allowing for a constantly evolving collection and a treasure trove of unique finds.

The store offers a unique service called “Powell’s Indispensable,” a subscription program that delivers a handpicked, autographed book to subscribers’ doorsteps every six to eight weeks.

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