I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and there’s a well-known ESL bookstore here, Alta Books. I’m always looking for more places to buy books, because Alta is pretty far away. They also don’t stock some of the things I especially want to buy in person rather than online, such as the Cambridge readers. Actually, I can’t find anywhere to look at the Cambridge readers in person besides at conferences, so let me know if you’ve seen them on shelves in the US. I understand that in Japan, they can be bought at Junk-Do, Kinokuniya, etc. I have a sneaking suspicion that those of you in EFL settings have it better than those of us in English-dominant countries, but I don’t know about, say, New York City, let alone London or Melbourne.
My city has three main bookstores: Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Half-Price Books. Borders’ ESL books are weirdly scattered over three areas, I think (ESL, writing, and reference?), but you can almost always count on them to have Azar books in stock. With the 20% off coupon perennially available at visitborders.com, it’s a place I often point new clients towards. Our Barnes & Noble seems to have a few more ESL textbooks in stock, though. I’m always kind of amazed that these big chain bookstores in towns with large immigrant populations don’t promote and enhance their ESL sections more. A spinner rack with Cambridge readers could bring in a lot of sales! How about your local chain stores? Are they clued into ESL or not?
By the way, both Borders and B&N offer free corporate discount programs to schools, school departments, libraries, and individual business owners. Since I’m about to become an official sole proprietor, I plan to join. Every little bit helps! Just ask at your store’s information desk to find out how to sign up.
The third bookstore here is a smaller chain and more responsive to the local population in general, but actually even less useful in terms of ESL books. I really love Half-Price Books for inexpensive science fiction paperbacks and other items for myself. I send students from Asia there to buy cheap translated manga, and I send advanced students to their $1-3 bargain shelves in the back to load up on interesting novels and nonfiction. Their ESL section, though, has only a tiny handful of books, which are inexplicably combined with the ASL section (that’s American Sign Language–good to have, since we have a major school for the deaf here, but still an odd combination).
Of course, there’s always Amazon, but ESL publishers seem to be a bit slow on sending material to Amazon for “Look Inside This Book” and other features. (The responsibility for that kind of thing is the publishers’, not Amazon’s.) This makes Amazon less useful for me, since I really need to be able to take a good look at a book in order to tell if it’s what I need. Sometimes I can go to the publisher’s site and find a sample chapter, but that’s not always sufficient. And, of course, Amazon’s discounts are hit and miss.
Yesterday I visited downtown Mountain View and spotted a secondhand bookstore called Book Buyers. That was a real find! Their ESL section isn’t huge, but it’s the biggest I’ve seen in a used book store. I picked up the current edition teacher’s guide for the intermediate Azar book at $8.95, which was a terrific bargain. I also got a book on Japanese linguistics (they have good sections for foreign language learning and for books written in other languages). They had a fair number of ESL and EFL textbooks, many with teachers’ guides and workbooks. They had a few TESOL books, too, though most weren’t recent. If you visit, you can sign up for the mailing list and write down ESL and TESOL as two areas in which you want to buy books! I highly recommend stopping by Book Buyers if you’re in the South Bay sometime soon.
Where do you buy your textbooks and TESOL books? Here’s a poll, but feel free to leave a comment, too.
EDIT: By the way, Alta has since closed to the public, making life a lot harder.