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Know Knew Books could be in its final chapter

Original post made on Oct 2, 2009

The sign spells out Know Knew Books' bleak economic state in big red letters, amid the window display of books, action figurines and Halloween decorations: "Liquidation."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 2, 2009, 9:12 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Paul
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2009 at 10:23 am

I feel bad. I love books, yet I have not bought anything here lately. I will make it a point to get here this weekend and buy something. Probably lots of somethings.

This is the kind of business we need to support, to avoid Palo Alto turning into anywhere USA.

Just go to Stanford Shopping Center and see if you can tell where you are, and that last comment should be clear.

Posted by sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2009 at 10:44 am


Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 2, 2009 at 10:57 am

Every time I come in here I find something unique and unusual - can't say that about Borders or Amazon - I am sorry to see it close. I hope the community rallies around - Calif. Ave. is so much nicer than University, even without the trees. Buy a book and get some Turkish coffee and a baklava at Mediterranean Wraps. Heaven!

Posted by Ellen
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 2, 2009 at 11:02 am

I'm not surprised his business is down a further 10% since the felling of the trees. I have no pleasure in strolling down California Ave any more, and just don't go there now.

Posted by Anne Knight
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

What others say about Buruss I've also experienced: being short a dollar and told to pay next time; unfailing helpfulness in looking up of books and returning calls to report findings.
As a tutor, I want my students to PURCHASE books, even the same books provided by their schools, so they can annotate them. I regularly recommend Know Knew Books--as I do to each of you.

Posted by Linda
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 2, 2009 at 11:57 am

I hope you are open when the Sunday Farmers' Market takes place. If so, I'll be sure to stop in again, after a long time. You are part of our community, and heck, we saved Kepler's, why not you, too? Best wishes

Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 2, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I love this store. I have bought some books, and donated many when I felt like doing a book purge. I miss charming small business run because someone has a passion, opposed to huge retail chains that are run for greed and profit. Times really are sad.

Posted by Mayfield Child
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 2, 2009 at 12:46 pm

I'm elated that this newspaper is taking note of Bill's troubles. HE is the type of person that this community should rally behind to make sure such an all around good person stays in business here.

To those of you who use the excuse you will not shop on Calif Ave anymore because the trees are gone, get over it. It is a done deal (as much as we don't like what happened), but why take it out on the shopkeepers? Get in your car, walk, bike there, (however) and if you have to, pretend that you have just gone back in time to the '50' Go home and know that YOU are the person that is helping make this district stay alive.

Posted by Walter
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 2, 2009 at 12:57 pm

While the bookshop owner did not seem to think that the Internet was responsible for the downturn in business, it is difficult to believe that the growth of on-line books, and e-book readers has not also taken its toll on local bookshops. While this shop is exclusively older (and older) used books, Google, the Internet Archive and dozens of universities have digitized millions of books (primarily from university libraries) and put them on-line and at no cost to download.

Google Books:
Web Link

While the Kindle and the Sony readers have demonstrated the viability of the current technology, other vendors will soon add their versions of these readers to the marketplace, which will increase the number of readers using these devices, putting even more stress on the local brick-n-mortar bookstores.

The following prediction should be understood by all:
IDTechEx has launched a new report covering paper display technologies, markets and players. Raghu Das, CEO, summarizes the findings:

The Big Picture
IDTechEx finds that the total market size for e-paper displays in 2010 is $131 million, rising to $1.17 billion in 2014. This is the value of the display component, not the product. To date, e-paper display technologies have been used in more than $1 billion worth of products. Much of the growth is driven by e-readers following the huge success of Amazon's Kindle. However, much more is to come. IDTechEx finds that in 2020 the market value will reach $7.45 billion thanks to the availability of flexible, color displays and faster refresh rates.

Digital technology will be disruptive to the institutions and industries of the 20th—just like the internal combustion engine was disruptive to the institutions and industries of the 19th century.

It’s difficult to understand how people living, and working, here in the Silicon Valley do not understand that most important point.

Posted by marylee
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 2, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Remember the song, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"--I have neglected to go into the store for a few months, but the idea that the store, and Bill's presence there, could be lost is terrible. I'm resolved to get there this weekend. Let's not let this piece of Palo Alto slip away.

Posted by AEC-MV
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 2, 2009 at 3:17 pm

As a long time patron of KKB, I will continue to buy books there until they push me out and lock the doors behind me. Bill and his team deserve another chance. Let's give this neighborhood treasure a reason to hope. See you all there.

Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

Thank you Sue Dremann and the Palo Alto Weekly for running this story.

Posted by Bill's a gem!!!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2009 at 8:50 pm

No matter what Walter says, many of us want to buy books. Some are collectors, many of us just enjoy them for their content & we don't need no stinkin' Kindle. Of course, there has to be enough of us to keep a shop like this alive. Bill's old school Palo Alto at its very finest: smart, generous, open, friendly, community-oriented. He's not one of the carpet-bagging types that have changed the area. We need more Bill Burusses in the area!

Thank you, Bill, and your team. Thank you PA Weekly for this story, and thank you, Ms. Dremann for writing it.

Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 2, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Oh no, please don't let us lose another of our unique and wonderful business's! The last two times I moved I donated hundreds of paperbacks, didn't even ask for a trade in, hoping to make sure he had the newest releases to sell so the business could stay...everybody BUY BUY BUY! Fantastic place, a Palo Alto special!

Posted by Oaf
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 2, 2009 at 9:58 pm

Many years ago a very well known local musician discovered that her beloved hairdresser was going to be closed due to a one time business mistake. This local person wrote a very large check on the spot which kept her hairdresser open and viable for several additional years. I thought one or more families might have done a similar thing for Bob and Bob before they closed. Here is another opportunity to do the unimaginable. This local business sells books while it feeds the soul.

Posted by Cheryl Rose
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2009 at 11:58 pm

Thank you Sue Dremann! You stirred up interest and you enlightened your readers. You're a journalist doing a fantastic job. Thank you. Everyone go to KNOW KNEW BOOKS and shop, the community is in trouble and no one but you can save it.

Posted by pointless
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 3, 2009 at 6:31 am

No matter what band-aid KKB gets from an uptick in business, they have long term problems that will eventually force closure within the next 6-12 months. Stores like this are dinosaurs. Go say your good byes.

Posted by John the Man
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Burress doesn't sound like he's whining. But from this story, the demise of his business is everyone else's fault: removal of the trees, road work, the economy, the sky is too high, the clouds too white....

Not saying those things aren't factors or main causes. But it IS his business, there isn't anything he isn't doing wrong that is significantly contributing to the failure?

Posted by Cieboy
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 12:10 am

Its true about their allowing you to take a book and pay later if you did not have cash. Sorry they are closing due to the trees. Palo Alto's public works dept should pay for their lost business !

Posted by Save the character of our city
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2009 at 2:20 am

I love this store - so many unexpected treasures - and Bill Buruss himself is a major community asset: a kind and helpful shopkeeper who cares about his inventory, not just a random hire in a large chain store.

KKB is the kind of unique store that contributes to Palo Alto's special community charm and character, as well as actually providing a very useful service. If the store can be saved, Palo Alto will retain something very special. If not, what a terrible waste - used books DO have value beyond their cover price (see the comment about textbooks!), and there ought to be nice friendly personable places to search for and purchase them.

BTW, there IS value to paper books as opposed to "e-books" , "Kindle", etc. Obviously they require no power source to function, only sufficient available light to read by. Secondly, the inherent nature of the media aids recall of previously mentioned subjects. This is important when searching back for unexpectedly-important but not previously deliberately "bookmarked" references (critical for textbooks). The human brain subconsciously "tags" processed material by general page depth into the book, and even whether something was mentioned on a left or right-hand page - none of which are available in an electronic format.

I can practically guarantee you that it will often be easier to find a "Hey I know I read something about that sort of thing earlier!" by flipping back through printed pages to a generally recalled area of a book, than by attempting various "guess" keywords typed into the entry field of a "search" function.

Posted by Selective Buyer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 5:34 am

When I need a book, I walk over to California Avenue and check at Know Knew Books first. That way, I shop at the stores I want to remain as part of the California Ave neighborhood.

Using shopping dollars as economic votes, one can also reward those businesses that help make a community the way one envisions it.

Curious how the Palo Alto Online web page listing the CAADA board members, and listing the businesses of those board members vanished--rather than being updated--right after the trees on California Avenue were deleted. Makes it a little harder for me to identify the entities *not* to reward with business patronage.

Fortunately, though, Google, cached the page!

(Granted, the page, even though it is identical to the page I saw on September 14, is not up to date. Certain persons listed are out of the area, others are deceased, and other listed businesses have been gone for years. But, until CAADA updates, it's all we have.)

Simultaneous removal of all of Cal Ave's mature trees was CAADA's Great Idea put before the city, then reduced to practice illegally by the CPA Public Works Department by their beginning work 14 days in advance (14 September) of having an effective-dated permit to do so. (As most readers now know, there was no legal permit for the street work/deforestation effective until 28 September.)

Now, the CAADA site:

Web Link

proclaims California Avenue as <Palo Alto's "Avenue of the Arts">.

It's certainly no Avenue of the Trees at this point.

If one clicks on the thumbnails of the art installations on the site, a couple of them disingenuously show the now-vanquished mature trees in the composition. The least bit of honesty or accuracy CAADA could exhibit would be to show the art pieces as they now appear--standing on their own in front of the "attractive signage" and awnings CAADA sought to expose by getting rid of the "messy trees".

Returning to important matters, please join me in supporting local businesses like Know Knew Books. Most on the avenue had no idea of what CAADA had conjured until the chainsaws and chippers were buzzing. Burruss even stocks books with photographs of mature trees.

Posted by sarlat
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 4, 2009 at 10:06 am

I've been avoiding going to Cal. Ave since the scandalous removal of its trees, but I will go into the bookstore and buy a bunch of books today, since this store is a local treasure, the owner is a wonderful person and buying books is always a good idea.

Posted by Jim
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2009 at 6:39 am

I've been shopping at Know Knew Books for almost 20 years. I always found something to buy everytime I went in. I will go in this week and add something to my collection. Hopefully the store can stay open.

Posted by Richard
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Does anyone have any ideas for helping the store?

The phone number for the Know Knew Books store is (650) 326-9355

Posted by peter
a resident of University South
on May 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Maybe Bill should paint the place Red White & Blue & sell a few Blue Jeans.....

Posted by Jerry L
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 1, 2014 at 2:30 pm

The good news is that Bill has found a NEW LOCATION and is alive and selling in LOS ALTOS.

I have been a big fan of Know Knew Books as far back as the 80's and 90's. I have a collection of old edition history books including two different publications of Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans. I was sad that the store was in trouble back in 2009. I'm excited to hear that the store is alive and in business at their new location!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 5, 2014 at 1:02 am

I used to love book, but I got so tired of boxing them up and moving them all over the place, dusting them off, and often not reading or looking at many of them. I have mostly gone digital, but I am unhappy with the digital books and players for the most part, unless I am reading them on my desktop computer where I can get a large enough screen.

Amazon's Kindle has a text-to-speech feature on one or two of its models, which is very handle, but not very developed and about the same as it was when the Kindle first came out.

So many books have graphics or features that are not correctly depicted or rendered on the Kindle.

I miss going to bookstores and the whole culture of books. I used to go to book reading events all the time, and they were really great. I have not been to one now in years and I really feel bad about missing it and not supporting our local bookstores.

Palo Alto used to have bookstores all over the place. From the back room at Fran's where I bought my first science fiction books as a kid, to Chimera Book's in that old Victorian house which then moved around University before it went out of business, To Keplers several locations, and Stacy's. Even Crown Books where I think Trader Joes in Moutain View is now ... or somewhere near there. There was Tower Books and there used to be a lot of technical bookstores in this area too. This was a book browsers dream location.

Now it's hard to find a book at the Stanford Bookstore their inventory is so limited.

One thing though, who thinks it's cool or clever to use a dumb pun like "Know Knew Books could be in its final chapter" ... that's really rude and obtuse if you ask me.

Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on Jun 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Sparty is a registered user.

One thing though, who thinks it's cool or clever to use a dumb pun like "Know Knew Books could be in its final chapter" ... that's really rude and obtuse if you ask me."

How many FINAL CLOSING sales did KKB have? I would consider them a bit of a laugh too after a while.

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