The best thing about this local chain is that a few of its stores still feel like independent stores. Despite corporate buying this location manages to keep a good selection.
PROS: Friendly staff
This store has the best selection in San Francisco of Science-Fiction and Fantasy books. Since they carry both in and out of print books, you can usually find exactly what you want to find. Their staff is 95% friendly and I shop here often.
PROS: Great selection, helpful staff
CONS: parking and transit
For all their space, they really don't have a very deep selection. Most of their stock is recently published - which means you can find your favorite bestsellers of the past two years here, but forget about finding any in-depth non-fiction or small press books. The atmosphere is depressingly chain-like and corporate.
PROS: cheapo bestsellers and tons of old Danielle Steele
CONS: I feel like I'm selling my soul here
For a relatively small space, Aardvark manages to stock an amazingingly large selection. Their prices are good and I love their relaxed and informative staffers.
PROS: Great selection, easy public transit, lots of good restaurants nearby
The selection is great, but their prices are a bit stiff compared to other SF used bookstores. I've also found a great variance in the staff, some are quite helpful, but most are rude and disinterested. I go here to find books, but I usually end up buying them elsewhere.
PROS: Great selection
CONS: Expensive, variable staff, no parking
Books Inc has several locations and they all look pretty much the same inside. Their staff varies wildly within each store, but has been shifting towards the 'student on break' end of the spectrum as the chain grows larger. These stores are a great place to find the new bestsellers, but that's about it.
PROS: Ubiquitous in the Bay Area, Great SF Airport Store
CONS: Chain-like, a little sterile
EDITED: This fine store was closed a few years ago. It is missed!
Stacy's strongest areas are their computer and business sections, you can find just about everything worthwhile and inprint in those two subject areas. I enjoy their Sci-fi/Fantasy section as well.
PROS: Easy Public Transit
I just can't like this store, their selection is lousy, consisting of current books and old bestsellers. For the amount of space they have you would think their backlist selection would be richer. I have to research topics for my job and Borders is my last resort as their selection is so shallow. The staff seems to be evenly divided between helpful book geeks and snotty wage-monkeys.
CONS: parking and bad coffee
This store has closed!
This store has one of the best Children's book selections in San Francisco, as well as awesomely talented staff! The store is big enough that they have a huge selection of everything, but the Children's section really shines.
PROS: easy public transit
CONS: no parking
EDITED: This store closed a few years ago! The space is now taken by Books Inc..
The Cookbook and Children's sections are worth a trip All in all, this is a great independent bookstore, but I find the atmosphere a little corporate and cold.