World's Biggest Bookstore

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World's Biggest Bookstore
Industry Books
Founded 1980
Defunct 2014
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Key people
Jack Cole and Carl Cole

The World's Biggest Bookstore was a bookstore located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, at 20 Edward St, just north of the Toronto Eaton Centre and the Atrium on Bay. Operating from 1980 until 2014, it was owned by Indigo Books and Music in the last years of its existence. The three-storey store covered 64,000 square feet and was noted for its bright lights and over 20 kilometres of bookshelves.[1]


The store was founded by Jack Cole and Carl Cole, the former owners of Coles Bookstore.[2]

At the time of its opening in November 1980, in a converted building that had housed the Olympia bowling alley,[3][1] it was unchallenged in its claim as the biggest bookstore in the world. Although it retained the name, the Guinness Book of World Records listed a Barnes & Noble outlet in New York City as the world's largest bookstore based on floor space, although Powell's Books of Portland, USA is usually considered the largest based on shelf-space. Nevertheless, World's Biggest Bookstore claimed the title on the basis that it carried more titles, while Barnes & Noble has more floor space.[2]

In 1994,the World's Biggest Bookstore was purchased from Coles by Chapters Inc, which was formed from the merger of the Coles bookstore chain and SmithBooks.[3] Although it retained its name, its stock, distribution and advertising were closely integrated with the Chapters and Indigo chains. The building continued to be owned by the Cole family and was leased first by Chapters, and then by Indigo after it acquired Chapters in 2001.[1][3]

The store made a brief appearance in the movie Short Circuit 2 when the main character, a robot named Johnny 5, enters the store and creates chaos as he reads through the books.[3]

On June 20, 2012, it was reported that the lease on the store's building, set to expire at the end of 2013, would not be renewed by Indigo Books and Music. The World's Biggest Bookstore would therefore close.[4] An Indigo spokesperson clarified that report stating: “Indigo is continuing to discuss the World’s Biggest Bookstore lease with the landlords at this time. We have expressed our intention to not renew the lease as currently proposed, [but] no final agreement has been made between Indigo and the landlord.”[1]

In November 2013 it was announced that the property at 20 Edward Street had been sold to Lifetime Developments, would close in mid-February and be vacated by April.[1] In February 2014, a press release by Paracom Realty Corporation stated that the site would be redeveloped and leased to four restaurants designed by Turner Fleisher Architects. The closure date was revised to the end of March 2014[2] The bookstore closed for the last time on March 30, 2014.[5] The structure was demolished in November 2014.[6]


In the late 1990s, with customers' book shopping habits radically changing after the launch of Chapters and Indigo, the store chose to play up its "no frills" image with an advertising campaign that included the following slogans:[citation needed]

  • "We occasionally have soft mood lighting. But then we replaced the burnt out fluorescent tubes."
  • "Like other bookstores, we have places to sit. But why aggravate your hemorrhoids?"
  • "Books priced so low even people who don't read too good are buying them."

These self-deprecating slogans are in the style of Toronto's landmark bargain store, Honest Ed's.


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Coordinates: 43°39′25″N 79°22′56″W / 43.657008°N 79.382355°W / 43.657008; -79.382355