By Mark Zimmerman   Published Jul 03, 2000 at 9:52 AM

You may never have to pay full price ever again.

Other than buying new books at a deep discount over the internet, there's hardly a better way to acquire both new and used books than by visiting area used book stores. In the process of looking for a particular title, you might be surprised what you find along the way.

My esoteric friend and I, always attempting to explore the deeper intricacies of what Milwaukee has to offer, recently spent a day visiting local used bookstores. Here are a few you might want to check out on a rainy afternoon:

Constant Reader Bookshop Ltd.
1627 E. Irving Pl.
(414) 291-0452

This charming little bookstore is nuzzled against East Side landmark, the Comet Coffee Shop. While relatively quaint, this bookstore shouldn't be underestimated.

Whether looking for a paperback copy of the old western "Shane" by Jack Schaefer, or a first edition of "Curious George" by H. A. Rey in the Children's section, the Constant Reader is a nice contrast to the hustle-and-bustle of larger book retailers.

If nothing else, take a bounce around the thick shag carpeting and buy a book that will keep you away from the satellite dish for a day or two. You may just find a diamond in the rough.

Renaissance Book Shop (two locations)
5300 S. Howell Av. (second level of Mitchell International Airport's Main Terminal)
(414) 747-4526

Don't be turned off by the airport location. This bookstore offers FREE parking (up to two hours) in the airport's parking structure with a minimum $5 purchase. Whether you're dropping somebody off, picking somebody up, or just making a special stop, don't overlook this immense collection of 60,000 volumes, including new books, used books, magazines, comic books, etc.

This particular location is the airport branch of the five-story warehouse store, located in downtown Milwaukee, and offers books covering a wide range of subjects such as aviation, railroads, travel, and Wisconsin history. This store also boasts sizeable fiction and nonfiction catalogs, as well as numerous backlogged volumes of Life and National Geographic magazines.

This bookstore is open seven days a week from approximately 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. While credit cards aren't accepted as means of payment, personal and traveler's checks are more than welcome.

Renaissance Book Shop
834 N. Plankinton Av.
(414) 271-6850

With a catalog that boasts somewhere between 250,00 and 500,000 volumes, a trip to Renaissance's downtown location can be a bit intimidating at first. A few simple suggestions first: clear your schedule, wear comfortable shoes and don't wear a watch!

The pitched, scuffed hardwood floors have seen better days, and large chunks of chipped white paint are falling from the rusted tin ceiling of the old storefront. Both add to the bookstore's charming personality and your transcending shopping experience.

While towering bookshelves engulf you overhead, you'll find the selection and organization quite impressive. "We try to cover a little bit of everything," said employee Henry Smith. "Variety brings in a variety of people. People walk in and are in awe. We beat some libraries in terms of what we've got."

When Smith says "variety," he isn't kidding. A gander at the south wing of the second floor revealed the largest collection of used paperbacks I have ever seen together in one place at one time. Fiction, science fiction, westerns, true crime. You name it, chances are they've got it.

A downtown staple since 1976, Renaissance Books still contains an element of mystery for some. "People who live here don't know it's here," Smith said. "When people think of book stores, they think of Walden's, Schwartz, Barnes and Noble, etc. They think of malls, period."

Despite the threat of technology and the Internet to stifle book sales and make bookstores obsolete over the course of time, Smith clutches to his optimistic view. "As long as people still love to read, we'll be in business."

Renaissance Books' downtown location is open from noon to 7 p.m. (M-F), from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, and is closed Sundays.

Half Price Books Records Magazines (three locations)
16750-B W. Bluemound Rd.
(262) 789-0280
8514 W. Brown Deer Rd.
(414) 354-1235
5032 S. 74th St.
(414) 281-0000

Based on proximity, the Greenfield location is my personal favorite. Whether you're looking for another $4 compact disc to add to your music collection, or a bargain-basement deal on the next title on your summer reading list, this is the place to go!

Children's books, romance novels, craft books, true crime paperbacks, vinyl record albums, VHS videos, magazines, rare and signed first editions. You name it, it's more than likely here. Take a gander. You might be surprised what you'll find.

At all three locations inventory changes on a daily basis, and frequent trips can net some pretty incredible deals. If you're like me, and are trying to build a prestigious-looking bookshelf without breaking the bank, this is the perfect place to start. Let the search and seizure start today!

Bay View Bookshop
2261 S. Howell Av.
(414) 744-0742

While the sign over the front-door of the business reads "Bay View Antiquarian Books," owner George John simply calls his business Bay View Bookshop. "It's less pretentious. (The name Antiquarian) is no good in this neighborhood. People come in looking for tropical fish."

Surrounded by a collection of books that is nearing 150,000 volumes, John says he is usually "too tired" to do much reading anymore. "The work is endless. It has no beginning and no end."

Perusing the store itself provides a very interesting experience. The creaky hardwood floor, which hardly ever sees sunlight, seems to take you back in time. Bookshelves that nearly reach the ceiling create endless aisles of books, almost seeming to scoff at the claustrophobic. Sections titled Americana, mystery, science fiction, feminism, philosophy take you to different worlds. The thick, earthy smell of the basement with its dim fluorescent lighting invites you to discover a lost literary relic.

Having been in the book-selling business for more 30 years, and 10 years at his current location, John feels he is treading water in a dying business. "(The business) would be dead if it weren't for the Internet."

Bay View Bookshop is open from noon to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and some Sunday afternoons. The web address is

Downtown Books
327 E. Wisconsin Av.
(414) 276-5330

This bookstore seems to grow in size every time I stop in. Recent expansion has added a back room on the second floor, and plans are in the works to further expand above Walgreens, which will eventually boost the amount of retail space to 10,000 square feet.

This extremely clean and organized bookstore offers bright and vibrant lighting for its endless mazes of nooks and crannies which offer clearly-marked mystery, thriller and fiction sections, to name a few.

One can find Disney videos, regular VHS videos and cassette tapes among the 250,000 general edition books, an entire level tucked between the first and second floors devoted solely to back-issues of National Geographic magazine, and a massive collection of comic books on the second floor.

Downtown Books location is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (M-F), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. So pick a day, take an hour, plug the meter, and lose yourself in the wonderful world of literature.

Other notables:

Yesterday's Memories Old Book Shop
5631 W. Center St.
(414) 444-6210

Recycled Books & Records
2239 N. Prospect Av.
(414) 276-1321