Monday, an article in the New York Times confirmed the story that the Barnes & Noble on Astor Place in New York is closing, and put to rest the rumors we'd been hearing that a new branch would open in Chelsea. The Astor Place branch will close on December 31, citing astronomical rents, the bane of all bookstores in NYC. (Strangely, the quoted yearly rent of $1.15 million for 32,000 square feet works out to only about $35 per square foot -- well within reasonable range, even for a bookstore.) The Times reports that a new B&N will open at 270 Greenwich Street in TriBeCa on November 28, "so the total number of Barnes & Noble stores will be unchanged."
However, a Tuesday article in the New York Post makes that last statement questionable. Real estate sources say that the Chelsea Barnes & Noble won't renew its lease when it comes up next May, though Barnes & Noble hasn't confirmed this. But the Post also says the chain may have signed a lease at Lexington Avenue and 86th Street for a new store to open next year. Go fig.
Possibly the best part of the Times story is two paragraphs at the end, where Meg Smith of the ABA offers McNally Robinson as a counter-example to the gloom-and-doom of the bookstore news. But read through the comments on the article for almost every possible perspective on the issue, from optimism that perhaps this signifies a return to local retail, to despair that New York is becoming ever more unaffordable and homogenized, to apathy about the importance of bookstores at all, and a brief debate about whether McNally Robinson is in fact a chain (it isn't; see comment #33). Fascinating stuff, and far from simple.
And then, check out the Tuesday Daily News story on independent bookstores in Brooklyn, which are thriving despite competition from Barnes & Nobles in their area. BookCourt (Boerum Hill), A Novel Idea (Bay Ridge), P.S. Bookshop (Dumbo), and Spoonbill and Sugartown (Williamsburg) are doing just great, actually. (And of course this brief article doesn't cover half the indie bookstores in the borough.).
Three New York papers; two days; three articles about bookstores. It's an interesting moment, folks.