"Stefan, do you know any good bookstore here in Frankfurt where I can get some physics books?" That's a question I often hear from guests at our physics institute, or from postdocs who are trying to familiarise themselves with life in Frankfurt.
To my embarrassment, the only answer I can honestly give at the moment is that no, there aren't any such stores! There is in fact one large bookstore, Hugendubel, which belongs to a German chain, comparable maybe to Borders. But there, you will find just some recent popular science titles - only in German, of course - , and a small collection of standard textbooks for undergraduates, also in German. If you are looking for a more advanced textbook, or even some monograph, or for recent popular science titles in English, such as Lisa Randall's Warped Passages or Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong, you will be very disappointed! For a town such as Frankfurt, with quite a large a university and several research institutions, this is not really what you would expect!
There was, in fact, one bookstore in Frankfurt which was specialised in titles in the sciences, math, and engineering. Unfortunately, over the last years, it has suffered from the declining number of math and science students, and from the ever-growing competition of amazon. But the real problem of this wonderful store was, after the death of its founder, Harri Deutsch, the obvious, complete lack of interest of its new owners in its unique standing as a scientific bookstore. Long-term experienced booksellers were fired, shelves became more and more devoid of interesting volumes, or even remained completely empty, and the sad end of the story, two months ago, was insolvency.
I am quite sure that this end could have been avoided. On the other hand, I wonder if, maybe, time is up for specialised bookstores, and that in future, you just can hope that your local university bookstore (if there is one) or your local outlet of Hugendubel/Waterstone's/Borders/Phoenix/whatever has, by chance, a good assortment of scientific books.
What is your experience in this respect, for places other than Frankfurt? Do specialised stores survive, if big enough, as for example Offilib in Paris? Are there general bookstores with a nice selection of scientific books, such as Chaucer's in Santa Barbara, Dillons (now a Waterstone's) or Foyles in London, or Akademibokhandeln in Stockholm? Or has your local chain outlet a good assortment, such as the Borders in Westwood Village? As you can guess from the list, checking out local bookstores is a favourite of mine when travelling ;-)
Unfortunately, with respect to bookstores, Frankfurt can't compete with none of theses places. But when I said that there is no location at all where to look for scientific books, that was not quite true. There is in fact one tiny store, at the Science Campus Riedberg: It is the former subsidiary of Harri Deutsch, which has found a new and confident owner. It is still quite empty, but maybe, in the near future, it will be the place to go when you are looking for scientific books in Frankfurt!
So, Astrid and Dorothee, good luck with your new business!
TAGS: SCIENCE, BOOKS, BOOKSTORES