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105-year old Dawson's Book Shop begins clearance sale


Dawson's Book Shop, founded in 1905 by Ernest Dawson, begins clearing its stock when it opens at 10 a.m. today. For the next two weeks, more than 3,000 collectible books will be marked down as much as 75%; photographic and Western ephemera is being marked down 50%.

Originally located in downtown Los Angeles, Dawson's was moved to Larchmont in 1968 by Ernest's sons Glen and Muir, who had taken over the business. After the shop is closed, Michael Dawson, Muir's son, will continue the rare books business online and by appointment only in a smaller location. "We own the building," Michael said Friday. "We're going to put it up for lease."

Founder Ernest  Dawson was a savvy marketer and businessman. When a devastating earthquake hit San Francisco in 1906, followed by fire, he saw that rare books focused on the West, had just become rarer. Myrna Oliver reported that Dawson then "bought all the old California books he could locate and sold them to the barren libraries, bookstores and collectors at considerable profit." 

"Unlike their father," Oliver said, Muir and Glenn "kept a cache of books in a back room of the shop that they could not part with. 'Because we love them!' Muir Dawson told The Times in 1984." The brothers maintained private collections in their homes as well.

The stock includes rare books, books on the history of the region, photography books and photographs from the Michael Dawson Gallery. The ephemera is hard to categorize; it includes an advertisement for an Indian picnic and photos of a long-ago flood.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Friends peruse the shelves at the 100th birthday celebration of Dawson's Book Shop. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

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This is both a bad sign, and yet....

Bad -- that small bookstores continue to close in the face of the giant box stores, (which I admit I happen to love -- Barnes & Noble, Borders are the new friendlier libraries), in the face of the Internet (Amazon.com), and driven in no small part by technology -- Kindles, iPads, and conversely the declining interest in books as opposed to cable, video games and everything else.

And yet, these new technologies will make books cheaper, easier to transport, cooler to carry & covet. And then there are the authors/series that still continue to explode suddenly -- the Girl with the Dragon Tatttoo, Twilight, Harry Potter, etc. New generations, new technologies, new book lovers -- all signs that the forest sometimes has fires that kill precious resources, only to see the soil spring forth the new.

I'm sorry for this family, but remain quietly hopeful for the world.

Does every book collector need a few more books?

So sad to see this local business closing... I know Larchmont Village is a special area to many, and the local businesses there are treasured. To see another beloved store close is an unfortunate occurrence.

It is sad to see more and more bookstores closing, due to the Internet access and ease of buying books online.

It was the private bookstore owners who not only had a love of books and reading, but also a great knowledge of books, the same way a librarian has in a public or school library.

For some, paying full retail price meant limited purchases and for those with no library in rural communities a long drive to get a book and have to return it in 2 weeks, sometimes unfinished.

Buying books at deep discount online filled the gap for those people.

Sorry to hear it's closing. Its sad.


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