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The Book Den celebrates 120 years in Santa Barbara with a special event

 SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. - The Santa Barbara Book Den is every bit the example of a business that will not let time or technology take it out.   Instead it's embracing the years and is now celebrating its 120th anniversary.

The Book Den is California's oldest used book store.

During this week's Downtown Santa Barbara First Thursday event will include a celebration for The Book Den. The public is invited to come by and learn more about the history of the store and a talk about book stores across America.

The store has watched other book stores close, and online and internet sales take an aggressive share of the book business.

Book fans say the store is unique, locally owned and has an impressive selection of new and used books.

Owner Eric Kelley said the store sees people from around the world. "Book people go to book stores wherever they go," he said.

The Book Den store first opened in 1902 in Oakland and the store was moved to Santa Barbara in 1933.

After some ownership changes, current owner Eric Kelley took over on April 1, 1979.

He sees how people react when they are in the store, touching and feeling the books. The staff has "really knowledgeable people that you can talk to you about books because this is a club.  A secret society," he said with a smile.

One customer visiting the area, immediately had a special feeling as she went through the shelves.

Lisa Behrens from Seattle said, "we were in San Francisco  a few weeks ago and I got frustrated in one of their cool book stores. There is something organizational right going on  in here ."

One of the trends in book buyers,  are those looking for the latest in love stories.

Kelley said, "romances and stuff like that is a stepping stone to Jane Austin. That's the news for this year."

The youngest readers often have the most enthusiasm when they see the choices in their section.

"The kids go 'where's the kids section?' And they run.  My favorite. That means there is a future for the book store and the culture," said Kelley.

There are also special displays set up for local authors and other focused themes in the decades old store with both new and used publications.     

Some are so rare and special they are in locked cases but most are right at your fingertips.

Kelley, "it means that we can keep up with the newer things and we don't run out of the classics and that's the benefit."

One way the Book Den has survived  on line and other competition is the small but experienced staff of five. "The sum total of book selling experience is 198 years so part of why this store is good is  we do know what we are talking about," said Kelley.

For more information go to: The Book Den

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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John Palminteri

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