The Novel Experience to close

April 5, 2011

In 1989, a bibliophile in San Luis Obispo could enjoy any number of local, independently-owned bookstores downtown: Phoenix, Leon’s, Norwood’s, Gaby’s, Bookland, and the mighty Earthling (where Natural Cafe stands today). Plus Mrs. Nybak, wife of painter Arne Nybak, had an antiquarian book consulting business she named The Novel Experience over in a tiny office on Marsh Street.

Today only Phoenix remains. Jim Hill, owner of The Novel Experience, has decided to close the downtown Higuera Street store by the end of the month. Hill and his wife Christine Nybak Hill bought the old Bookland in 1992 and renamed it The Novel Experience in honor of Christine’s mother.

Credit Jim Hill for trying. He had to fight off Barnes & Noble. Then Borders. He had to deal with high downtown rent. Then earthquake retrofitting. Christine eventually stepped away from the store to pursue work with Alzheimer’s patients. Jim moved into a cheaper location down the street in 2004, but even that did not help in the long run.

One thing Hill couldn’t control was the bottom line of publishing. As he has been telling the regular customers who continue to wander in, the numbers just don’t pencil out anymore. People are not buying books as much. Kindle and e-books are the new thing. Hill tried to find a buyer, but no one appears interested in buying a bookstore in 2011.

Closing is set for April 30th. Good bargains on books can be found until then.



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Can’t stop progress. To us old f@rts this isn’t progress, but this is the way it is. All the kids have Kindles or some type of electronic readers. Their brains just automatically gravitate to tech. I was sad when Boo Boos left GB, I don’t have time to go to SLO. Walmart was the largest seller of of CDs and they’re getting out of the CD business,,,d@mn MP3s. Costco no more CDs and fewer books. Since I was a teen I’ve read 2 or 3 Newspapers a day, not anymore, all internet.

Good luck Mr. Hill, thanks for what you did and I’m sorry to see you go.

I hate the kindle. Nothing like a well-bound tome.

sent from my iPad4

Always sad to see an old bookstore close but many of the chain bookstores are also in trouble.

I don’t believe it is because people ‘read’ less, per se, but they have so many more alternatives. Kindle, freebooks and iTunes have made huge inroads… but there are also the on-line book sellers that have a world-wide audience. is an inexpensive choice when searching for a favorite used book. I’ve bought a book for $1 there… and unfortunately, been enticed to spend more. Building your own personal library need not be expensive… but it is rewarding whether your interest is Egyptology, Astronomy, Science or literature.

Happy Hunting

Good memories of SLO downtown…sad to see this place close down. Best of luck to the Hill family.

[Also–it was Earthling Books, not Earthing. I think their Santa Barbara location is still open. (?)

And you’re right–it was a mighty store in its time.]