Buying and Selling Used Books in Airports

Harriet Baskas writes in USA TODAY about a few airports that have honest to goodness independent book sellers, who offer air travelers something a bit different from the big chains–Used books!

Portland, Ore.

A selection of used books is mixed in among the new at Powell’s Books at Portland International. Headquartered in downtown Portland, Powell’s has three branches at the airport: one in the pre-security Oregon Market area and smaller outlets on Concourses C and D.

Powell’s airport store manager, Martin Barrett, says travelers can stop by the pre-security store to sell or trade as many as three books at a time. Anyone with more than three books to sell or swap must drop them off and return a day or two later for a tally.

“A lot of airport employees and airline crewmembers take advantage of this,” says Barrett, but if a passenger shows up with a suitcase full of books to swap, that’s fine, too. His book-shopping at airports hasn’t always been that satisfactory.

He recalls a long delay at the Kansas City airport, where the book selection was limited to the five leaders in each category of the New York Times best sellers list, “and then about 10 different versions of The Wizard of Oz.”


Opened about 30 years ago, the Renaissance Book Shop at General Mitchell International Airport may be the oldest used bookstore in an airport.

Located pre-security, the store’s shelves are crammed with 40,000 to 50,000 books — everything from general fiction and biography to local and regional history. There are also back copies of Life magazine.

Dave Long, a staff member at the bookstore for more than 25 years, says customers include frequent travelers, “meeters and greeters” and folks who come to the airport just to browse.”I leave extra room in my luggage, planning on it,” she says.

The Renaissance Book Shop doesn’t buy used books at its airport store. It does offer a voucher for two hours of free parking to anyone who spends at least $15 in the store.


In North Carolina, it’s a reader’s paradise at Raleigh-Durham International. New books are sold at Borders (BGP), Hudson News & Books, CNBC, Press Plus and other retail outlets. But there are about 8,000 used books for sale at 23-year-old 2nd ed. Booksellers, a shop owned by Walter and Karen High.

Walter High says the shop sells about 60,000 books a year. “The selection is outstanding, especially considering the (small) size of the store,” says Packman.

“My only complaint is that they do not have one in the other terminal.”

“And let’s face it: It gets kind of tiring see the same best sellers in all the other bookstores that sell only new books. I just wish every airport had a used bookstore.”