Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bookstores: A Sign of the Times

The New York Times is reporting that Barnes and Noble will close there Manhattan Upper West Side store at Broadway and 66th Street, near Lincoln Center in January 2011.

Company spokeswoman, Mary Ellen Keating stated: “Barnes & Noble regrets to announce that we will be closing our Lincoln Triangle Store at 1972 Broadway at 66th Street in Manhattan at the end of January 2011. We recognize that this store has been an important part of the fabric of the Upper West Side community since we opened our doors on October 20, 1995, however, the current lease is at its end of term, and the increased rent that would be required to stay in the location makes it economically impossible for us to extend the lease. We want our loyal customers and booksellers to know that we are ever committed to continuing our search for a new location on the Upper West Side.”

The NY Times article added: "While Barnes & Noble has recently suffered declining foot traffic, it still has a store at the corner of 82nd and Broadway on the Upper West Side, and in July 2009, it opened a 50,000-square-foot superstore at 86th Street and Lexington Avenue.

"Two other Barnes & Noble stores in Manhattan, one on Astor Place and one in Chelsea, have closed in the last three years.

"Barnes & Noble, which put itself up for sale this month, is in the midst of a proxy fight for control of the company."

But the upcoming closing of Barnes and Noble is also affecting another local bookstore, a sidewalk bookstore that belongs to Charles Mysak. For more than a decade, beginning at 7:00 a.m., Mysak sets up his sidewalk bookstore on an old folding table and has sold hundreds of used books from his table and a few crates and boxes. Most books sell for under $5, but he, too, is feeling the impact of the downturn in paper book buying. He does not see it as business failure but as a "reflection of society." He refers to the many customers of the local Apple store who walk out with expensive items and walk out "as if they are in ecstasy."

The NY Times quotes Mysak: “It is apparent that we have a real serious issue, that the life of the mind has been in decline for some time now. Ignorance and indolence is the primary problem. If you take care of the mind, everything else follows.”

I wonder, is the mind in decline? Or, is the mind moving forward to explore and experiment with new ways to read, ways to save a few bucks, and is the mind just enjoying the latest technology that comes along?

Ebooks have found their place, and it appears they don't need four walls and brick and mortar or a folding table on a sidewalk.



farfel54 said...

Mysak a very erudite gentleman and one of my favorite bookdealers in New York City.

Linda Pendleton said...

It is sad that he may close up shop, too.