Books & Music (Used): O'ahu

Posted on by MK Carroll

View Larger Map

I read a lot. With the sheer volume of reading that I do, buying new books would outstrip my income quickly. I am a big fan of the public library system, and borrow a lot of books. I also have a tendency to run up a lot of overdue fees, and there are also the times when I want to take a book to the beach, or on an airplane, or be able to just toss into my bag and not worry about too much. This is where used bookstores come in. I like bookstores that carry new books too, and it's nice to be able to walk into a bookstore, look up a title, and get it off the shelf quickly. The lifespan of a book can be very short when it is new and quickly disappear from the shelves of the big shiny bookstores, yet have a relatively long life cycling through the stacks of used bookstores. When I travel, I like to check out the used bookstores (which is how I wound up reading Langston Hughes' The Big Sea while in Dublin); used bookstores tend to be small and quirky, with no two being the same (and then there's Powell's City of Books - huge and quirky).

The Google map I've put together includes more than just books - there's a lot overlap with books, music, comics, and games, so Stylus (music and clothing) winds up on the map even though there are no books there. This isn't a complete list of all the used music/book stores on O'ahu - I'm limiting this to the ones I go to and can give at least a partial review of.

Jelly's Comics & Books
'Aiea (Central O'ahu)
98-023 Hekaha St # B1-9
Aiea, HI 96701
phone: (808) 488-5245

Kaka'ako (Honolulu)
420 Coral Street
Honolulu, HI
phone: (808) 587-7001

The 'Aiea location is big, with a mix of new and used music, books, games, and comics. The book buyer is selective, which I think works well for the mix of books on the shelves, but also means that it would be a good idea to call ahead if you have books you'd like to sell. There is a craft section, and I've found a few knit/crochet books there, but it's a small selection. The fiction/literature selection is good, and there's a shelf of seriously marked down books that can yield fun items like an Italian phrasebook from the 1940's.

I haven't checked out the new location in Kaka'ako; I think I'd like to do so on a day off when I can also have lunch at the medical school cafeteria (the desserts are excellent). I've heard that it's big and airy, with a music section reminiscent of Amoeba.

Rainbow Books & Music
1010 University Ave
Honolulu, HI 96826
phone (808) 955-7994

'Aiea (Central O'ahu)
9-185 Moanalua Rd # 100
Aiea, HI 96701
phone (808) 487-8867

If you like sifting through stacks, you'll like Rainbow's. When I say stacks, I mean as in stacks of books on the floor, books shelved two deep, and piles of books that creep into other sections. They also do some business in previously owned magazines. They buy books (including textbooks at the University location). Both locations are small and densely packed, so you'll want to be prepared to scoot around for other customers. Parking is tight at the University store; you can pay for parking in the Puck's Alley structure across the street or the Varsity parking lot. The 'Aiea location has a parking lot behind the building. Please note that both locations have an adult section; the 'Aiea location has it curtained off with a sign, and the University location just has it down at the end of the same aisle that carries best sellers.

Book Rack
4510 Salt Lake Blvd # C7
Honolulu, HI 96818
phone (808) 487-8350

Located in Stadium Mall, the Book Rack is convenient to Pearl Harbor, COMPACFLT, and Camp Smith. You can trade in books for credit towards more books based on price and category (they do only trading, no buying of books), so some of the books will come back into the store repeatedly. The selection includes lots of mystery/crime, sf/f, romance, military history, and westerns. It's a small family-run operation; the patriarch is a charming conversationalist on just about any topic and can make recommendations if you aren't sure what you are looking for. There's a table of books on sale for less than a dollar each - great for finding something to take to the beach.

600 Kailua Rd # 126
Kailua, HI 96734
phone (808) 261-1996

I don't go to Kailua very often, and I've only been in the store a few times. There's a larger selection of children's books than I've seen elsewhere, and a bit more space to move around in than most of the other stores.

Gecko Books & Comics
3613 Waialae Av
Honolulu,Hawaii 96815
phone (808) 732-1292

Primarily used and new comics and graphic novels, as well as collectibles. I haven't been here in a while, because I am reminded every time I do that I stopped buying comics and graphic novels for financial reasons. My budget just can't handle it.

Other Realms Ltd. The Comic and Game Specialist
1050 Ala Moana Blvd # 2300
Honolulu, HI 96814
phone (808) 596-8236
Their name says it: comics and games. Miniatures and supplies for painting/modding them are also available. Located in Ward Warehouse, upstairs in a fairly quiet section of the mall. The staff is friendly and helpful - they are even nice to kids.

Stylus Honolulu
2615 S King St # A301
Honolulu, HI 96826
phone (808) 951-4500

No books. None. Music, yes, including very deeply categorized and sub-categorized vinyl, and a selection of new and used clothing that includes Threadless t-shirts, local/indie handmade/reconstructed items, and most of the previously owned clothing is under $10. Buy, sell, or trade clothing and accessories (no shoes). The clothing buyer is selective, so don't go in with an armload of worn-out schmattes. The result is that what you find on the racks is clean, in good condition, and stylish. The people behind the counter are also the owners, both with a lot of experience doing what they are doing. The building has validated parking.