Closing the book on Castro Street

Dwindling sales forces BookBuyers from downtown Mountain View store after 25+ years

BookBuyers, the used bookstore that has been a mainstay in downtown Mountain View for more than 25 years, will be closing its Castro Street location in the coming weeks due to lackluster sales. Store owner Hotranatha Ajaya said he fully intends to keep the popular store open, and is searching for a new home for the business and its inventory of more than 300,000 titles.

Ajaya said he recently informed the bookstore's staff of the news and assured them he was working to find a new location. He said moving out of the current location became necessary as the business fell behind in rent.

His landlord has been "unbelievably good" in supporting the business despite its losses, he said.

As it stands, BookBuyers will close its doors in mid-April with plans to be out of the space by the end of May. Ajaya said he had a lead on a potential new space for the business in Mountain View, but no deal had been finalized yet. His business needs a space of at least 5,000 square feet, and he urged anyone with a lead on a new location to contact him.

Most of all, he said he wanted to assure his customers and employees that he would do his best to keep the business going. Always optimistic, he said the "silver lining" is his business had been seeing strong numbers at its literary events and other activities, even though that didn't translate into sales.

"We're still committed to keep this going and to increase our community involvement in the process," he said. "Many people are coming in here and this is definitely a happier place. The only thing that's not helping us right now is sales."

BookBuyers' landlord, Leslie Mills, said she has tried her best to help the bookstore as it struggled in recent years. On two occasions, she said she had agreed to drop the rent to get the business back on its feet. But as the store began falling behind on its payments, she approached Ajaya to see if he would scale down his business. In the end, they couldn't find a way to make that idea work, she said.

She hopes Ajaya, whom she described as "the hardest working guy," will find a way to keep the bookstore going, perhaps with the help of an outside investor.

"I really would like them to stay, but unfortunately, maybe books are just a thing of the past," Mills said. "If people truly love this place, they need to step up."

Ajaya has long been upfront with his clientele that his bookstore was skating on thin ice. Last April, he announced that BookBuyers was on the verge of closing but he pledged to make a last stand to save the business.

On Monday, Ajaya told the Voice that the same philosophy was behind his effort to resurrect BookBuyers in a new location.

"We refuse to give in until it becomes impossible to go forward," he said. "I think these things are forcing us to do what we need to do. I see this as a positive even though it's really nerve-wracking."

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54 people like this
Posted by TheView
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

It's nice to see a landlord care as opposed to all the other landlords here in Mountain View who have ruined so many resident's lives due to their greed. And I still like reading books alot. It's not good to stare at screens for very long.

9 people like this
Posted by Book Lover
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Who has some ideas for new locations???

How about on Moffett N of the RR tracks?

25 people like this
Posted by Maybe
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:38 pm

Maybe they can move into that old chinese restaurant across the street that has been empty and abandoned for 3 years. :/

9 people like this
Posted by Pinto
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm

It's really sad to see local businesses getting pushed out via and with the changing demographics of Mt. View it's just a sample of globalization concocted with online shopping and "ebooks" At least we still have the library...for now.

21 people like this
Posted by David B. Karpf
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:51 pm

It is beyond sad when any bookstore closes down, and even sadder when it's an independent book store. And sadder still when it is the beloved BookBuyers....I sincerely hope they are able to rise Phoenix-like someplace in Mountain View that has lower rents!

12 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:57 pm

He should visit Leigh's favorite books, she has made a go of it, sells used and new books, small space, does not accept used books that won't sell (smart move) and has a great children's store (Bookasaurus) in the adjacent space on Murphy. Maybe some lessons to learn? Admirable that the landlord tried to work with him but that is a huge space cannot subsidize the tenant forever.

I hope they find a good retail tenant, Apple Store? enough with the restaurants, coffee shops and bars. Would like to see something along the lines of Los Altos Grill. Great food, nice bar area, live piano, fun vibe. Of course Mixx still empty and that Chinese place, probably a result of sky high rents.

14 people like this
Posted by iDontLikeChange
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2016 at 2:59 pm

It's so sad to see a bookstore close down. It's almost as sad as seeing my favorite record store close, or the local blacksmith close up shop. NOW where am I supposed to re-shoe my horses before the day-long buggy ride back up to the city?

21 people like this
Posted by SP Phil
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 15, 2016 at 3:13 pm

I would have consistently made Book Buyers my *first* stop IF there had been some way to check a database online or in the store to see if they had a title I'm interested in. At present the staff don't know what they have and can only direct customers to row of shelves to go hunt. At Amazon I can find used books directly.
In short, the battle isn't between independent book sellers and Amazon; it's between book sellers employing basic invetory technology and those that done.

14 people like this
Posted by Henry Bemis
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Honestly, a trade your old books for other old books business plan isn't the greatest.

11 people like this
Posted by Scarlet
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Nooooo! This is a fabulous bookstore and my go-to place for calendars. In fact even out-of-town visitors put "shopping at Book Buyers" on their list of things to do when they come for the weekend. I'm really really bummed....

29 people like this
Posted by Fan
a resident of Jackson Park
on Mar 15, 2016 at 4:21 pm

I love that place but it is kind of quirky. Of the 300,000 books there are probably 200,000 that NOBODY would want, especially computer books. Windows 95 for Dummies? Floppies for MacPaint? That whole computer aisle could have been pared down to about 20 books from the last decade. Over in the DVD aisle: Punky Brewster Season 1. Really?

8 people like this
Posted by Always sad, but...
a resident of Slater
on Mar 15, 2016 at 5:24 pm

It's always sad when a bookstore closes because the world just needs more bookstores. But the dust and mold in that place are so bad that I start having an allergic attack 5 steps into the door. And considering the time it would take to find any book whatsoever, I always ended up fleeing before I buying anything. Sorry.

18 people like this
Posted by Tom Anderson
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

This is a great bookstore in many ways, but I have to agree that too much of its valuable floor/shelf space is consumed by titles that will likely never sell. In addition, the last few times I have been there the store was a complete mess due to "reorganization." Entire sections were packed in boxes, other sections were partitioned off by plastic sheeting, and I couldn't find anything I was looking for. That really discouraged me from coming back any time soon. A smaller location with cheaper rent, more selective stock, electronic inventory, and better online presence might save this store. I hope that they can make it work!

5 people like this
Posted by Happy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 15, 2016 at 7:21 pm

I never thought that place would make it. The place next door sells books that are in better condition.

11 people like this
Posted by Inez
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 15, 2016 at 7:43 pm

How about moving to the old Fresh Choice location on the corner of Rengstorff and Middlefield?

5 people like this
Posted by Amelia
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2016 at 8:11 pm

I saw this coming and moving is likely not going to change sales. Books have moved online to e-readers. We can keep 1000 titles on a device instead. No longer do we have to give up our 'babies' because we can't keep them all without overrunning our house.

The old model no longer works and I doubt simply moving is the answer, unless you can find a place where people shun technology.

This has got to be tough because Ajaya is likely attached to all of the books. Where will they all eventually go?

Paid-to-join events and selling rare books might have made a difference if this was the core business model.

23 people like this
Posted by OMV Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2016 at 10:55 pm

I would like to express my deep appreciation to Mr. Ajaya for the many, many pleasant and joyful hours that I've spent at BookBuyers over the years. I'd also like to apologize for some of the snarky comments made by some other commenters here on this message board. Constructive criticism is certainly reasonable here, but snarky, cynical comments are really unnecessary, given the blood, sweat and tears Mr. Ajaya and his staff have put into keeping this unique community landmark open.

I wish Mr. Ajaya and his staff the best in their transition to a new location... look forward to many future visits when things get settled!

11 people like this
Posted by Amy Zucker Morgenstern
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2016 at 7:18 am

I am not looking forward to telling my daughter that Book Buyers is closing. She swears baby dragons live in its stacks and she loves to go there and look for them while I look for books.

I agree it needs a computerized inventory and a culling. Browsing is great, but sometimes you really want to know if X is there before you come looking.

To those who prefer the place next door or e-books, or think used books are not a great bargain, to each their own. I prefer used books to new.

Now, is there something we can do as fans and supporters? At least three local indie bookstores have announced they were closing and then come back from the brink because people came through with memberships or other commitments. Let us help!

15 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Mar 16, 2016 at 8:09 am

More than a computerized inventory, they should be selling online at places like Abebooks, Amazon, Biblio, etc.

Abebooks (originally started in 1996 as Advanced Book Exchange) was the first of the successful used book online marketplaces and has helped many used bookstores weather the tumultuous times for booksellers.

Sad to see BookBuyers leave Castro Street, but the writing has been on the wall for a while.

I wish them the best of luck in their next chapter of existence.

16 people like this
Posted by Save Retail
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2016 at 9:26 am


"I hope they find a good retail tenant" ... "We need something like Los Altos Grill"

Are you kidding me? Open your eyes. Scratch is on the next block and much like LA Grill. Eureka is opening at 191 soon. This is the problem. People say they want something but don't actually frequent the business. Everyone wanted a boutique grocery store. They got Ava's. Ava's is struggling.

Look in the mirror folks. Amazon is a beast, but it is YOU that is feeding the beast.

11 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2016 at 11:11 am

"Save Retail" nailed it exactly. Three cheers for clear vision!

I've watched the downtown for many years, seen incessant public comments about it on this forum and others. People impatiently demand sevices and businesses and then don't patronize them (not just in the aggregate -- sometimes I've even followed up with individuals who asked for things, and found they never used them even when their very wish was granted). "People will look everywhere for the cause of their troubles, except in a mirror."

Sad news about this bookstore, I've used it often. Browsing does have its advantages over indexing -- you may find good titles you _weren't_ seeking -- but the used book business, which I've patronized for several decades now, has been moving online since the 1990s. Many of this region's best independent booksellers saw the trend and the numbers, and moved their business to the internet already 15 years ago! One of them remarked at the time that his rental costs dropped almost to zero (thus moving to the "income" column) while his sales increased. It hasn't hurt the overall market in used books at all (most titles of the last 75 years remain under copyright and only a tiny fraction, the most popular, become e-books) -- used books are now _more_ accessible, because you search online instead of the old tedious Bookman's-Weekly want ads -- but the selling process has changed.

3 people like this
Posted by Book Lover
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 16, 2016 at 12:28 pm

The Book Buyers advertise their locations as Mountain View, Monterey, Hawaii and online. The books they sell online probably can't be the same books stocked in the store. This might mean that the books in the stores are excess copies or priced too low to sell online.

It is difficult to determine when a hard to find book becomes a dead item taking up valuable floor space. Retail stats like sales per square foot and number of stock turns each year play an important part of a book stores success, not ideal for used books, so have to give Book Buyers credit for hanging in there so long.

However, my main reason for not going here as often as before is finding parking in Mountain View. Fewer places left in Mountain View encourage me to go elsewhere. For my book fix I go to the Books Sales at the local libraries. Prices are much better with cleaner selections. Great chance to browse when you need a book fix without a specific title in mind. South bay is fortunate with a book sale going on almost every week.

3 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 16, 2016 at 12:40 pm

@Always Sad..

"And considering the time it would take to find any book whatsoever"

Have you tried asking? Didn't think so.

"I always ended up fleeing before I buying anything"

Yet you keep coming back.

15 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 16, 2016 at 12:43 pm


"The place next door sells books that are in better condition."

Perhaps because it sells new books? Genius.

3 people like this
Posted by Erc
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 16, 2016 at 1:42 pm

That liquor store on Evelyn near Calderon recently closed. It would be great if a bookstore moved in

3 people like this
Posted by Otto_Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 16, 2016 at 2:25 pm

Otto_Maddox is a registered user.

Sad to see another book store close let alone an independent store like this one.

Can't say I'm surprised. People just don't read books like they used to thanks to the mighty Internet and having a screen you can carry around with you at all times.

I'll admit, I read less as well. I still enjoy holding a book more than looking at a screen though.

8 people like this
Posted by DownTownMV
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 28, 2016 at 8:15 am

DownTownMV is a registered user.

For those of you criticizing the business model of this store, they must have been doing something right to have kept it going for 25+ years.

I've enjoyed many years of shopping at this store. I found some really good books here. I wish there was a way to keep it in downtown. I really think opening a cafe might have helped business, especially considering they'd be the only cafe open until 11pm/12am. This place will be missed and Castro St will not be the same.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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