New York MagazineIn the 's, it took Paul A. Solano a week to stroll the six blocks from Union Square to Astor Place in Manhattan, a corridor of three dozen shops selling used books. Now, Mr. Solano, a bibliophile who started a used bookstore of his own in Morningside Heights, walks the same distance in just 10 minutes, a little more if he stops to reminisce. But even as the passing of Book Row and its era is mourned - Mr. Solano counts New York's used bookshops on 10 fingers - there are signs that the decline has ended, and perhaps has even been reversed. A Will to Survive.
Pageant Book & Print Shop
They began disappearing slowly, one by one, block by block. Some warned of the coming end by posting handwritten apologies and lengthy explanations on their windows, and some just closed their doors, quietly, saying nothing at all. I was twelve when I first experienced one of these places. The shop, where I came to spend Saturday afternoons while my mother learned to channel, overflowed with used paperbacks and smelled of incense mixed with stale cigarettes and aging paper. Two months later, on a crisp December day, my mother announced that she was done with New Age spirituality. She was right.
The wife and I had some old friends over for dinner the other night who now live out of state, and the conversation quickly turned -- as it frequently does in our house -- to the physical erosion of culture for lack of a better description caused by the jackbooted march of technology. By this, of course, I'm talking about how the alluring ease and accessibility of purchasing goods and services on the internet has virtually wiped clean the chances of long-term survival for independent, brick n' mortar mom n' pop establishments that sell stuff like, say, music and literature. The predictable retorts about the "brilliant user-friendliness" of Kindles and the convenience the dreaded "c" word of Amazon ensued, but I'm far too stubborn and pig-headed to cop to those arguments. It probably sounds ridiculous, but I still feel pointedly guilty anytime I order something from friggin' Amazon, and usually only resort to that after I've vainly combed the city's comparatively dwindling network of stores for whatever item it is I'm searching for and come up predictably empty-handed. Anyway, blah blah blah, moan moan moan, gripe gripe gripe. To drive my point home, I started citing a laundry list of formerly beloved book and record shops that have since gone the way of the wooly mammoth. Ideally, they won't mind me re-producing that photograph below.
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In , Sidney B. Marks Place to 14th Street. One of Mr. Nearly seven years later, the siblings are still selling hard-to-find items, though now maps and prints rather than rare books. Shirley: I focus on the unique and affordable.