But all the foot traffic wouldn't be happening if Byer wasn't keeping the customer satisfied, as the saying goes. In an economy where bookstores are regularly closing their doors, Byer has kept his business alive by building a loyal base of regulars.
Watching him at his store, he can barely move from one section to another without someone asking him for advice on a book or seeking an answer to a question.
"They come and maybe not find something that time, but two weeks later they'll be back," Byer said. "Then you have people who go through our sections and they'll pick up one $4 book after half an hour, but you can tell they enjoyed the experience.
"They'll say 'I just love to look around' or 'I just love the smell of old books' or 'I just love the feeling of being here.' And it really makes you feel like you're doing something worthwhile, not just trying to make money selling books."
"We really try to stress bargains and treasures," Byer said. "Our membership program has driven the prices down but the profit up because I sell so much more. I have to have volume to stay in business because I'm not selling a paperback for $10."
It's those rare treasures that lure customers, like Du Pree, who like to nab special editions of books they once owned long ago.
"I found a second copy of Mary Lynn Robinson's 1980 book 'Housekeeping.'" Du Pree recalls. "I had lost my first copy, and going through the store I found it again. I can always go to a regular bookstore and find one, but there's something about getting the old one for me that's exciting."
Second Edition Books and Music is at 6490 Dobbin Road in Columbia. Store hours are Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Call 410-730-0050 or go to
Turning another page
There are other noteworthy independent bookstores in the region. The following are a few of them:
3620 Falls Road, Baltimore; 410-662-4444, http://www.atomicbooks.com
Atomic, which bills itself as having "Literary Finds for Mutated Minds," augments its book selections with comics, toys, a book club and events such as an art show where artists recreate their favorite book and record sleeves.
Breathe Books focuses mostly on books about spirituality and offers a full calendar of events featuring classes and lectures.
Books with a Past
2465 State Route 97, Glenwood; 410- 489-2705,
This 15-year-old store, recently bought by a new owner, features a wide selection of new and used books in disciplines ranging from astronomy to mystery, and also boasts a selection of foreign-language books.
425 E. 31st Street, Baltimore; 410-243-6888, http://www.normals.com
This 20-year-old shop has long been a favorite with Baltimore City Paper readers (who name it a "best of" regularly) and offers a quirky selection of fiction and hard-to-find vinyl.