Along Long Beach’s eclectic 4th street is the quaint, yet powerful bookstore, Page Against The Machine. Posters line the light gray and bright red walls with spokespeople of famous social and political movements. Shelves hold rare books shoppers can’t find at major bookstore chains.
Some of the bestselling books at Page Against The Machine include “1984” by George Orwell, “All About Love” by Bell Hooks, and “Global Civil War” by William I. Robinson. Along with books, the store also carries zines–smaller booklets that resemble magazines and are usually self-published. Zines are often sold online or at zine-related conventions and are unusual to find at a bookstore.
The items sold at the store carry various social, political, and philosophical messages, which goes along with its name, Page Against The Machine, a nod to the punk rock band, Rage Against The Machine. Chris Giaco, 55, is the store founder and his love for books, interest in politics, and support from the community led to the store opening in April 2019.
When he was a college student he started out as an accounting major until his elective classes in the humanities inspired him to become a political science major. He also began working at a bookstore in college, which set him up to find his own store later on.
Prior to Page Against The Machine, Giaco had a vintage store that sold artsy books, yet his interest in politics persisted.
“I had been accumulating all these interesting political books and not really having an outlet for them and… I had heard it somewhere else that somebody had called the bookstore Page Against The Machine,” he said. “It seemed so logical, so for one of these fourth Friday events at the other store, I did a popup and called it Page Against The Machine where I brought out a bunch of these political books and the response to the name–people thought it was so clever or whatever–so the response is what stuck in my head like ‘oh, you know, people are really doing that.”
His other store fizzled out and Page Against The Machine was born. The space was previously a surf shop and the owner offered it to Giaco.
“I wasn’t really planning on thinking of opening a bookstore at the time, but it’s almost like she like put the idea in my head,” said Giaco. “And then when I saw the space, I’m like, ‘okay, it’s small, but the rent is reasonable, I have this name… It could be like a perfect time to do this.”
Giaco had a clear vision that allowed the opening to happen quickly. He was adamant about what the store was going to represent, the aesthetics and color schemes.
Despite his plans for the shop, Giaco owes the store’s evolution to the customers. Several have recommended books to him that have become staples in the store.
“I always say the customers are the co-curators of the store,” he said. “I get a lot of, both students from universities and professors from universities and they’re just a good bellwether of what’s in the air and what people are asking for.”
Customers can rely on Page Against The Machine on being open to selling their desired books, but the store always stands firm on its purpose. Giaco said he still includes books that don’t sell as well as others, but he feels are crucial to include such as books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He’s all for including content that is often overlooked by media outlets and receives little to no coverage.
The store creates an open dialogue with its visitors that keep shoppers coming back. It’s a coveted business in the area.
“Long Beach should be proud of the curatorial activism on exhibit in Page Against The Machine, a store that I frequent and never leave without feeling inspired, if not hopeful,” said Bill Mohr, a store regular.
As much as the customers admire the establishment, Giaco admires them back for their knowledge and desire to improve the current status quo.
“Books are just what the store has to sell to pay the rent,” he said. “It’s a tangible thing, but really, the store was based on an idea of being like a community hub and a place for people to get inspiration.”
Page Against The Machine’s upcoming event is on September 30th at 7 p.m. Raymond B. Craib, a professor at Cornell University, will be discussing and signing copies of his book, “Adventure Capitalism.”
On October 6th at 7 p.m., Char Miller, a professor at Pomona College, will be discussing and signing copies of his book, “Natural Consequences: Intimate Essays for a Planet in Peril.”
By Laila Freeman