New York City A Bookstore Desert

In an article this morning in the New York Times reporter Julie Bosman writes how surging rents are forcing booksellers out of Manhattan.

Once a literary city, NYC is now a bookstore desert.

“Rising rents in Manhattan have forced out many retailers, from pizza joints to flower shops. But the rapidly escalating cost of doing business there is also driving out bookstores, threatening the city’s sense of self as the center of the literary universe, the home of the publishing industry and a place that lures and nurtures authors and avid readers,” writes Bosman.

She then details the closing and moving of book stores out of the city.

“The Rizzoli Bookstore was recently told that it would be forced to leave its grand space on 57th Street because the owners decided that the building would be demolished.

“The Bank Street Bookstore in Morningside Heights announced in December that it would not renew its lease when it expires in February 2015, saying that it had lost money for the last decade. Both stores are scrambling to find new locations.

“Independents like Coliseum Books, Shakespeare and Company on the Upper West Side, Endicott Booksellers and Murder Ink have all closed their doors.

“In the past, those smaller stores were pushed out by superstores – a trend memorably depicted in the 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail” – leaving book lovers worried that someday, Manhattan would be dominated by chain bookstores.

“But now the chain stores are shutting down, too. Since 2007, five Barnes & Noble stores throughout Manhattan have closed, including its former flagship store on Fifth Avenue and 18th Street, which was shuttered in January. Five Borders stores in Manhattan were closed in 2011 when the chain went bankrupt, vacating huge spaces on Park Avenue, near Penn Station and in the Shops at Columbus Circle.

“The American Booksellers Association, a trade group for independents, has 39 member stores in Manhattan, a number that includes museum shops and Hudson News locations in Penn Station, where magazines and bottled water are displayed far more prominently than books. (Some independent bookstores have found it easier to survive in Brooklyn, the borough already teeming with writers like Jennifer Egan and Martin Amis.)

“There are still six Barnes & Nobles remaining in Manhattan, but with the company closing roughly 20 stores each year nationwide, some people in the industry have urged publishers to step in. Whispers that publishers will re-enter the brick-and-mortar business – harking back to the days when the storied names Doubleday and Scribner graced bookstores on Fifth Avenue – have intensified in recent months. Some publishing insiders have speculated that Penguin Random House, by far the largest trade publisher in the world, will expand into retail to fill the void left by Barnes & Noble, which has struggled to find its footing, and compete with Amazon.

“David Rosenthal, the president and publisher of Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, predicted that stores like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie would become more important in the publishing ecosystem as stand-alone bookstores decrease.”

Rizzoli Book Store in Midtown
Rizzoli Book Store in Midtown

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