Between Spenard Road and Minnesota Drive, nestled smack in the middle of the Northern Lights Center is a giant bookstore that’s out of the ordinary.
Title Wave Books and Music is Anchorage’s alternative to the big guys like Barnes and Noble or Borders.
Title Wave first opened its doors in 1991 in a small shop across from Sears. Owners Steve Lloyd and Julie Drake created it to expand the book selection in Anchorage.
“(We could) barely find books we liked to read in Anchorage,” Drake said. “Remember, this was before 1991, pre-Amazon.com or big-box bookstores. When we traveled outside, we’d ship books home. We reckoned others might be as frustrated as we were with the book selection in Anchorage, so we opened up a very small used-bookstore. Now, due to customer requests, we sell both new and used books, and we’re doing it in a 34,000 square-foot store.”
Drake and Lloyd’s goal was simple.
“(We wanted) to earn a living doing something we loved and believed in of value and service to the community,” Drake said.
For those unfamiliar with Title Wave, it is not merely a bookstore. You can buy, sell or trade your good-quality books and CDs. Only tip-top quality books and CDs are bought by Title Wave, ensuring that shoppers will always get used books in like-new condition. Eighty-five percent of Title Wave’s stock is used books bought from customers. There are two options Title Wave offers its sellers: you can receive cash or store credit, which never expires.
Barbara Jacobs, a counselor at Romig Middle School, is a long-time Title Wave customer. Every so often she brings in her used books for cash or credit.
“I use it to recycle my old books that either the kids have grown out of or we no longer need in the house,” Jacobs said.
Upon entering this massive store, you are visually overwhelmed at the glow and warmth of it. Bright fluorescent lights beam down from the ceiling onto signs scattered throughout reading “Employee Picks,” “Alaskana,” “New Releases” and even “Look, wow!”
Mobiles and various pieces of bright artwork hang from the ceiling and sit on the tops of bookshelves, and everything is labeled with signs to help point you toward what you might be looking for.
When you hit the back wall of the store there is an information center and a sign that reads, “We’ll drop everything to help you find a book! Just ask!”
Chairs are sprinkled around for you to rest and peruse your new-found books, and even though the presence of so many notices on the walls could have some people reeling, in this environment it leaves you feeling warmly welcome and totally at home.
Anchorage local Sonya Wellman has been shopping at Title Wave since 1997.
“It’s quiet and comfy, near my work and less expensive,” Wellman said. “I try to steer away from chains and try to stick with independent Alaskan companies.”
Chase Perrins, a bookseller and clerk for Title Wave, has the same mindset.
“It’s way cool to have a store like this, like a sword in the flame competing against the bigger chains,” Perrins said.
From a student’s point of view, the only downside to Title Wave is they don’t deal with textbooks.
“It’s a business decision based on hard business research. Plus, the University of Alaska Anchorage Bookstore has that covered,” said Drake. “We simply can’t be all things to all people.”
Gather your books (the ones without scratches, tears and marks from a highlighter), and expand your library with something new to you.