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Earlier this month, I (Chris) went on a business trip to Boston and had a half-day which was free of meetings. Having been to Boston many times before and I probably saw most of the major sights. What should I do with that free time in this city?

Living in Lausanne, we are a bit deprived when it comes to browsing in a  bookstore which sells English language books. Payot and FNAC in Lausanne both stock popular English fictions and business non-fictions but they only carry a very small selection. The idea of checking out the bookstores of Harvard and MIT came to me when I passed the bookstore of Suffolk University Law School on Tremont Street near my hotel. The bookstore has a small selection of law text books. In the window, they displayed a collection of Boston tourist guides!

My hotel was located near Boston Common, so it was a short ride on the red line, from Park Street, to Kendall for MIT (only two stops) and another two stops to Harvard.

MIT’s publishing house, MIT Press began publishing in the 1930’s and publishes 200 books and 30 journals annually.  Their bookstore is on 292 Main St, Cambridge.

The press’s logo, visible in red in the window, is based on the lower-case letters “mitp”.

The bookstore is rather cramped. It sells its own books as well as those by other publishers organized by topics. As expected, the topics are academic in nature and reflect MIT authors’ expertises ranging from architecture and design, computer sciences, digital media, cognitive sciences, linguistics, and economics.

Lots of books on machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Recent issues of MIT’s journals are on display including Daedalus, Review of Economics and Statistics, Leonardo, and Artificial Life. I think Leonardo really reflects MIT’s broad interests (quoted from their website):

Leonardo is today’s leading international journal on the application of contemporary science and technology to the arts and music and, increasingly, the application and influence of the arts on science and technology. With an emphasis on peer reviewed writings by artists, the journal seeks to ensure that the artist’s voice is integral to the development of new technologies, materials, and methods. 

One of the benefits of visiting such bookstores is the staff’s selection of books on a specific topic. They are all lay out on tables for browsing – a smorgasbord of scholarly writings. From this table, I bought Good Thinking by Denise Cummins.

Across the street from the MIT Press Bookstore is the MIT Coop.

This store is managed by Barnes & Noble (judging by the decoration and point-of-sale materials) which also manages Harvard Coop.

The Coop sells popular titles (including books by MIT authors but not published by MIT press, see dedicated section in picture), text books, games, magazines as well as any merchandises with “MIT” plastered on it.

While I was in London during the Olympics, I went to the Waterstones on Gower Street across from University College London where I studied.  I really enjoyed that visit and bought a whole bunch of books, which might explain my enthusiasm here. My next post will cover Harvard’s bookstore.

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