Bookstores leaving Manhattan, forced out by rents


Everyone but the rich leaving Manhattan, forced out by rents

Headline fixed.


Indeed, low-margin businesses don’t really have any business in high-rent areas.

The real question is whether bookstores are a low-margin or negative-margin business. Here’s hoping on the former.

Obviously, this is Google’s fault.

I hate to see it, but business is business and the man is going to get paid, come Hell or high water. The reality is that physical tomes are becoming readily quaint. I love cracking a binding as much as the next guy, but the times, they are a-changin’ and books are becoming my generation’s LPs.

LPs to CDs to … ether. We’re in a state of flux.

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A non-volatile storage medium. It’s very rare, you should have one.


Send in Pliskin…


Manhattan’s adults will get the stores they deserve, not the stores their children need right now.


This is actually much bigger than that. I understand what you’re talking about, hell, I’ve been programming computers for thirty years, and developing web applications and websites since the 1990s, I’ve done my part to bring some of that about. But what’s going on is being caused much more by income inequality and gentrification. For example, here in San Francisco, not only bookstores, but other businesses are being forced out of the city do to rent increases, including service businesses like barbershops. People that have lived and worked here for generations are being forced out because they can’t afford to live here. And when I say “here” I don’t just mean the actual city itself, but the entire Bay Area, because that’s how big this thing has become. That’s why you’ll see so many articles these days comparing New York and San Francisco, even in New York publications. Both cities, and the surrounding areas, are well on the way to being completely remade into playgrounds for the rich, and, especially in the case of San Francisco, those rich are overwhelmingly in their early 20s, and very white.

In other cities in the US, you’ll actually see that bookstores, even small independent bookstores, are doing surprisingly well. Just do a web search for “small bookstores thriving” and you’ll see articles from all over the country. There’s even a huge resurgence of vinyl records for crying out loud. We need to be careful not to chalk everything up to the old “internet as disruptor” meme.


I buy lots of physical books, just not in stores.

So what’s the solution? Maybe we should have rent stabilization for commercial property, especially for benefit corporations.

This doesn’t have much to do with rents gone awry in Manhattan, but:

Musical instrument shops where you can actually walk in, have a chat to someone about the pros and cons of a particular item with someone likely to be an enthusiast as well as an employee or owner and walk out again with whatever it is you have decided to take the plunge on are another good example of the kind of business I dont want to see go away.

The only way I know how to follow through on that is to actually go into my favorite store and actually buy something every now and again, even if could get it a tad cheaper online, instead of just taking the “free” advice and then running off to actually buy on the net…


Hmm. As soon as you mention ‘music instrument shops’, I think of one which closed down a while ago here in Lancaster, UK, where one could actually walk in, get sneered at by the elitist owner, and walk out again with a grudging purchase ('cos this predates ubituitous online shopping, and there was no viable alternative). Non-musician friends/family going in to buy a gift had it even worse.

Same with the bike shop next door: road bike riders were welcomed, but the owner was openly contemptuous of mountain bikes (Lancaster is on the edge of prime mountain biking areas…).

Same, to a lesser extent, with the specialist sci-fi bookshop: the owner wasn’t deliberately rude, but seemed incapable of engaging with ‘civilians’.

If the price of being able to walk in and chat to an enthusiast is already being a hardcore enthusiast, I can’t sincerely express surprise, nor regret, at the ‘loss’ of such places.

[Sorry; that didn’t have much to do with Manhattan rents, either!]

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In other news, 30-year-olds leaving Manhattan, forced out by 'rents.

I know, I know… They’re going to have to do their own laundry!

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I worked at the UWS Shakespeare & Co in the mid-90’s - right after the B&N moved in two blocks away. I was told by the manager that despite the “rivalry”, our sales actually went up when the big boys came in; when a customer wanted specialized service and became frustrated with the lack thereof at the B&N, they’d come to us. Many people in the neighborhood were fiercely loyal and may have even bought more books to spite the conglomerate. If anything, she said, we were more in danger from the landlord raising the rent. I left for 6 months and when I came back to New York, Shakespeare & Co was gone, replaced by yet another drug store. I went to work at the B&N and found lots of nice, knowledgeable co-workers and the same grumpy customers who accused the booksellers at S&Co of being “snobs” now came a griped that all of us at B&N were ignorant, blaming the peon with the nametag for “forcing Shakespeare & Co out of business”. People are funny.

It’s a shame books are such low-margin sellers, and it’s also a shame that a great cultural city like NYC can’t seem to figure out how to keep culture around.

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Do the rich read?

Wow. You have some idea what it’s like to enter a shop where your money isn’t green enough. As a woman, I’m all to familiar with this level of service.

(This is OT, too, but I couldn’t help making the observation.)

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Well, they own books and that’s pretty close.

We’ll always have The Strand. Now if you’ll excuse us, we have another opera company to close and a bank to put into the first floor of Lincoln Center.

I do find it amusing that the little children’s bookstore that was the impetus for “You’ve Got Mail” is still there but two Barnes and Nobles within walking distance have closed. Of course AOL isn’t what it used to be either, so that movie’s not exactly prescient…

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Couldn’t agree more, no obligation to support a business where they don’t get it, especially those muso types can be insufferable.

My point was more along the lines of when you do find a good un, think twice before you buy solely based on best price.

And I have had great service from online music shops as well for hard to find but low cost drum spares, so I know its not a given that online service is non-existance once they have your card number…

Funny you should mention bike shops, I’ve also been sneered at for naming a top range under 2000 Euro for a new bike!