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Book Bonanza Bye-Bye 

Fabled bookstore A. Amitin's is closing its doors, but not before doing a kind deed

The vast warehouse of moldering books that is the A. Amitin Bookshop is getting closer to its demise. As we reported about a year ago, owner Lawrence Amitin was concerned that his landlord was planning to force out the bookseller and his labyrinth of towering shelves lined with a half-million books on two levels.

Now, Amitin says, he has been ordered to vacate and is trying to unload tons and tons of books in a big-ass sale that will run for the next six months or so. The ungodly size of Amitin's inventory means that the business will have to be terminated. "The rent would be too high anywhere we go, and the move would be too costly anywhere we go," he says.

Amitin has decided to price every book "that isn't rare or collectible" at $1-$4, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Kaycey Fund, which was set up to help with the bill for a multiple-organ transplant for a girl at Children's Hospital. The "Knowledge Is Life Book Sale" will also include sporadic auctions of rare books over the next three months or so.

When a great used-book store closes, a city loses a bit of its character. The Amitin family has sold books in St. Louis at a half-dozen locations over the last 70 years. The Washington Avenue space has become a gathering place for "intellectuals and philosophers and street people and students -- it's like a little piece of Rome," says the owner. "It's a very eclectic type of operation that magnetically draws a diversity of people and cultures." In fact, the bookstore has such curious power that people have worked there for books instead of a paycheck.

The Bad-Timing Department notes that the massive street-renovation project in the Washington Avenue nightclub district that envelops Amitin's is nearing completion: Springtime for drinkers means wintertime for thinkers.

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