Posted on Leave a comment

The Strand and the Plight of Used Bookshops

93 years old and still one of the best indie bookstores in NYC. I’ve gone on holiday to the city and spent days lost in the stacks. I loved how they would mail the books home so I wouldn’t have to carry them. Three floors, packed floor to ceiling, sales tables lining the block on which it stands. An amazing place with one of the hardest interview processes for employees. This is the place I dream my store would become. It has been a few years since I have walked the stacks, but when I am looking for a rare item for my clients, I check there first. Today on my twitter field I saw a message:

“Strand Book Store @strandbookstore

We need your help. This is the post we hoped to never write, but today marks a huge turning point in The Strand’s history. Our revenue has dropped nearly 70% compared to last year, and the loans and cash reserves that have kept us afloat these past months are depleted…. ”

In the last few months people have been pushing for Indie bookshops to survive and the public has listened. But people keep thinking that Indie means NEW bookstore, when instead the term means not connected to a chain or publisher and makes no distinction between new and used. Used bookstores are important. Most people do not understand this.

Used books keep people reading. If your budget only allows you a certain amount for books, would you chose one new hardcover or a stack of used paperbacks? Teachers need 40 copies of a book for a classroom? Used bookstores will have a good selection at reasonable prices.

If you end up having to move and need to unload some books, used bookstores are great for that. And when many people do this, you have the chance to find some interesting reads. For example in a used bookshop I once found a paperback version of The Song of Roland which was printed in France in three languages: Old French, Medieval English and Modern English.

Do you have a favorite author that has been writing for decades? Do you know that most publishers will not put any title that author wrote that was published by another publisher on the Other Works page? And when that first publisher is now out of business or merged with another one, how will you find the book? Now the titles are listed online, but only used bookstores carry them.

What about when the author mentions their favorite childhood author and you want to read what they loved? Best place to find them is in a used bookstore.

Want something new to read that is similar to what you like to read? New bookshops tend to have the classics and whatever is “in or popular” at the moment. So finding something that is different can be a challenge. And yet at used bookshops you can see shelves of things that are similar or completely different than what you even though of reading. Catchy titles or just weird covers in styles of bygone years can start a journey into a new reading experience.

Used bookstores are a view into the social past. What to understand why your grandparents, or great grand parents thought and acted the way they did? Check out what they read and you can see how society was being shaped.

Amazon is making it easier to find and buy books on it’s site, but independent bookstores that sell through them barely make a profit off of the sales. (Check out their terms on the seller page, then compare it to the seller pages on biblio.com and others). Online sales are the future and used bookshops are heading that way in droves. But people tend to discard the old. A shiny new book is a great present, but a worn book is considered a bad one. Unless it is rare and antiquarian and that is a whole other topic.

The modernized world is beginning to recognize that the “single use” mentality is a bad idea, and used bookstores are the key to this. Badly worn reader copy books can be used for art projects and home décor. And while they are paper, the processing sometimes makes it difficult to decompose easily- especially the covers/boards. I have seen people who have used them as planters and as small animal beds.

But keeping used books in circulation will help the environment and the economy by letting people spend in small amounts and also prevent over publication of new books. This is a win win situation.

But people need to support used bookshops. I implore you to check out places like Alibris.com, Biblio.com, thrift books.com, hpb.com and strandbooks.com to start and to search for used bookstores near you to find local ones.

The only way for the industry to survive is with the help of society and it is important to society that the industry does survive.

#savethestrand #smallbusiness #usedbookshops

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *