Best Bookstore Ever: Powell’s Technical

powerlls map2.jpg

I’m in Portland, OR today. Powell’s Bookstore is huge, wonderful and renowned. However, I only just discovered their smaller, yet sizable “technical books” annex around the corner. HOLY MOLY. This is the mother lode for all the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things.

The layout (above) and some of the shelf category labels should give you a good idea of what you’ll find: artificial intelligence, vintage & handtools, probability theory, solid state electronics, microcontrollers, CNC, Tesla, fuzzy logic & neural nets, dams, bridges, boatbuilding, artificial life & genetic algorithms, user interface design, and more. There’s plenty of cozy cafe chairs, and a little collection of vintage computers in the back, including a NeXT Cube and CBM Model 8032. They even sell stethoscopes in the med ref section!

Due to rain and hail, I’m cooped up inside enjoying free wi-fi. No one cares I have yet to buy anything — although I’ve amassed a pretty nice stack. If you’re ever in Portland, this place is a guaranteed wallet-buster. Photos and some fun finds* after the jump.


*You don’t have to be in Portland to browse the collection. For a random look, try Powell’s Shuffle feature.

Here’s where I’m camped out, followed by some of what I caught my eye…

powerlls cafe.jpg

Build Your Own Underwater Robot & Other Wet Projects
Encyclopedia of Vibration
American Machinist’s Tools: An Illustrated Directory of Patents
Chemistry of Powder & Explosives
Building a Shed
Doolin’s Trouble Shooters Bible
The Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles
Decoding the Heavens

Drawers of Oregonian Topographic Maps!

powells topo.jpg
powells topo drawer.jpg

If there are any vast, must-see tech bookshops in your city, let us know.

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18 Responses to Best Bookstore Ever: Powell’s Technical

  1. ScottMcG says:

    Once again, you’ve made me incredibly homesick. I miss Portland so much, and this is just another reason why. Try finding anything this cool in Charlotte.

  2. strider_mt2k says:

    That store layout looks like a motherboard.

  3. bbonyx says:

    I remember when I lived in Dallas in the mid-90s there was a chain of tech bookstores that were fantastic. Everything I learned about 3DS (R3/R4) and MAX came from books in those stores. Can’t remember what the name of the chain was though, just that the store on Beltline (between Preston and the Tollway) had a big C:\ prompt out on the lawn in front. They’ve been gone for about 10 years now.

  4. Anonymous says:

    @13: The Hawthorne store is also good for crafty nerds!

  5. dalek g says:

    I go there almost every day after work, sit by the windows in the engineering section and use the free wifi till my wife is done with her workday. Soooooooo much less crowded than the cafe in regular Powells. Powtech ftw!

  6. sleepy_e says:

    Indeed! The Tech Store is the best bookstore ever! I hope you left with your arms full!

  7. bibulb says:

    So it looks like they’re better for the academic sciences (biosci, physics, compsci) while I’d wager that we’ve got them beat on depth in the engineering disciplines.

  8. grimc says:

    haha strider wins the internets

  9. grimc says:

    If there are any vast, must-see tech bookshops in your city, let us know.

    …and Powell’s will still be the Best Bookstore Ever.

    Whenever I go back to PDX, I always make sure I have room in my suitcase for the bounty from a trip to Powell’s.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Powell’s is renowned. All must show the appropriate deference.

    That said, I give a cheer to Book People in Austin, for the size, the atmosphere, and the readings of literary luminaries. And Austin has the Alamo Drafthouse, surely the greatest thing to happen to movies since sound.

  11. ZoopyFunk says:

    Make sure you hit up the ‘Rare Collection’ section in the main store. You might have to don gloves an all, but damn they have some good archival tech books.

  12. Peter Ha says:

    This was my favorite place to go when it was dreary outside growing up. Good to hear you’re enjoying Portland, Leckart. Be sure to grab a some Stumptown from the Ace a couple blocks away.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Sadly, you missed Fup by a few years.

    Fup was the live-in Powells Tech cat. Had her own blog and everything.

    Sometimes I would wander in to pet Fup, and end up buying something cool.

    http://www.powells.com/blog/?p=2568

  14. Stefan Jones says:

    There was talk, before the economic slowdown, of adding a couple of stories above the main-branch Powell’s Burnside lobby and relocating the technical annex there.

    But I like the separate location. It’s just a few blocks away.

    Another valuable service: On either side of the front door stairs is a bin for *free* stuff. If you have a copy of the Intel-produced coffee table book One Digital Day you can drop it off here without someone running after you screaming “We don’t need another one of those damn things!”

  15. devophill says:

    Off Topic re: Dean’s Faucet post about one winged landing.

    Fake fake fakeitty fake!! So fake. Also, not at all real. Also fake.

  16. Albdirs says:

    okay Powell’s is great and all but one would be wise to travel up the hill from PowTec Hang a left @Rocco’s pizza and go see all the books that Powell’s doesn’t want you to see @ COUNTER MEDIA 927 SW OAK

  17. J4rH34d says:

    If you get the chance, go to Powell’s Books for Cooks on Hawthorne. Down the street is Jaciva’s Chocolate. Across the street is the Bagdad Brewpub, a refurbished movie palace. All of them worth a trip to Portland on their own.

  18. xzzy says:

    You have to quit gushing about Oregon here. It’s one of the best kept secrets in the nation, and if too many people start to realize it’s a great place to live, you’ll ruin it. ;)

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