Downtown L.A. now has an independent bookstore: it's called Metropolis Books (Main St. btw. 4th and 5th). Metropolis, which opened in December 2006, is right next to Blossom, the relatively new Vietnamese restaurant on Main Street, which has seen the arrival of many new businesses and developments in the last few years. Metropolis has good selections of fiction, mystery, sci-fi, African-American fiction, and non-fiction, and a small used books section as well. It's in a nice space that invites leisurely browsing, with some inviting comfy chairs in the middle of the store. The owner, Julia Swayze, a mystery author herself, is friendly and knowledgeable about her stock -- she appears to have hand-picked each of the books on the shelves.
In any event, that the opening of a bookstore is noteworthy gives you a sense of things in downtown L.A. To my knowledge, downtown residents are still waiting on a grocery store to open in their neighborhood; reportedly, a Ralphs is opening downtown sometime soon. [UPDATE: per Capt. Colossal (and other sources), the Ralphs is now open.]
For those you of you in and around downtown L.A., please support our new independent bookstore. Visit Metropolis Books sometime soon!