Friday, October 06, 2006

Comment: New York Speaks about Bookstores

Wow! I've just discovered an amazing new community at Brooklynian.com. It's a linked series of blogs and message boards for discussion on issues related to different Brooklyn neighborhoods. Wednesday evening I logged on to the Prospect Heights forum and posted the topic "Who Needs a Bookstore?", asking users where they thought might be the best potential spots for a literary bookstore/cafe in Brooklyn. Since then there have been nearly 40 replies and over 400 readers! Most are excited, though some are discouraging -- it's an interesting cross-section of New York public opinion. Check out the conversation if you're interested.

Interestingly, this comes on the heels of the announcement that major New York indie bookstore Coliseum Books is closing, for the second time. Their first location on Columbus Circle closed due to massive rent hikes several years ago, and though they were able to open up in a new location on Bryant Park, their sales never really recovered.

Of course, this is cause for much woe-to-the-bookstore, wailing and gnashing of teeth. Check the Times in the next few days for an article containing other indie store owner's takes on the situation (including a particularly feisty comeback from my own boss). Coliseum's closing is heartbreaking, but I don't think it's inevitable, or indicative of the destiny of New York indie stores in general. Coliseum's business model just didn't work for their location, and that sucks. But check out the list at right for half a dozen indies that are surviving and thriving in the city.

I just came off of posting practically a manifesto on the Brooklynian boards, so my dander is all up. You know how I feel about snarks and naysayers -- sometimes my joy and optimism about independent bookstores can get a little militant itself. Check out what's happening, and form your own opinion. What do you think Coliseum's closing means, if anything? What do you think is the future of indie stores in New York, or other urban areas? How much of the story about the "time of financial troubles for independent book retailers across the nation" (to quote the Times) is an issue of focus?