Composer and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and three of his collaborators on the massively successful musical have saved a famed 100-year-old specialty theater bookstore in New York City from going out of business. Facing unaffordable rent in Times Square, the Drama Book Shop was on death's door even as it sought a new location. According to the New York Times, the city has committed to help identify a new location in Midtown Manhattan. From the New York Times:
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The new owners of the store are Mr. Miranda; Thomas Kail, the director of “Hamilton”; Jeffrey Seller, the lead producer; and James L. Nederlander, the president of the Nederlander Organization, which operates the theater in which the show’s Broadway production is running. They purchased the store from Rozanne Seelen, whose husband, Arthur Seelen, had bought it in 1958. (He died in 2000.) Ms. Seelen said she sold it for the cost of the remaining inventory, some rent support in the store’s final weeks, and a pledge to retain her as a consultant.
“It’s the chronic problem — the rents were just too high, and I’m 84 years old — I just didn’t have the drive to find a new space and make another move,” she said. “Lin-Manuel and Tommy are my white knights...”
“When I was in high school I would go to the old location and sit on the floor and read plays — I didn’t have the money to buy them,” Mr. Miranda said...
When you walk into a bookshop, chances are that you weren't expecting to walk out with a bookshop. However, that's exactly what happened to Ceisjan Van Heerden after shopping at the Bookends bookstore in Cardigan, Wales. After opting for an early retirement due to medical issues, the bookshop's owner, Paul Morris, decided that he wanted to raffle it off and give a lucky book lover the opportunity to own a shop of their own.
From The Guardian:
Morris, who worked in the book industry for years before he opened his own shop, told the Guardian that he had chosen to take early retirement at 52 after his osteoarthritis worsened.
“I thought about selling it, but I thought instead, let’s give someone an opportunity in life which they might not otherwise have had. The principle was to make sure the shop continues in good hands,” he said. “[Ceisjan] is a regular customer and I’m really pleased it was him — he wants to run it. You can make a very good living from it — far too many bookshops have disappeared over the years.”
Van Heerden was in it to win it along with close to 60 other contestants. The only barrier to entry was spending over £20 (around $26) in the store. That doesn't sound like a whole lot of cheddar to hand over, for books or for the opportunity to own your own business. But, if it's a used bookstore that you're talking about, $26 is enough to fill a decent chunk of shelf space with new tomes to read. Read the rest
Librairie Mollat has a lovely ongoing project where they try to match patrons and staff with book covers, and the results are often inspired. Read the rest
This summer in Montreal I stopped by the Drawn & Quarterly book store on 211 Bernard St. Visiting the store was one of the highlights of my trip to Montreal, and it is definitely worth checking out.
Drawn & Quarterly has published comics by some of my favorite authors, such as Dan Clowes. They also carry many awesome books and comics at the store from other publishers. I had a lot of fun looking through some books of R. Crumb's art. The store has a lively atmosphere and often hosts events.
On the store's site, you can find out about upcoming events at the bookstore.
I interviewed Alyssa who works at the bookstore. She told me the store has been open since 2007. Each of the staff members has a section of books that they have chosen for the store. The events that take place at the bookstore are often author readings, and book, poetry, and comic book launches. There's a stage and chairs in the back of the store for these events. These events happen often and the store is one of the most popular places in Montreal to attend a book launch.
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Arnold Drake World is a talented paper artist who sits at a communal table at the cafe in Portland's legendary Powell's City of Books and turns paper napkins and towels into "botanically correct flowers" with many flourishes and grace-notes. Read the rest
Jim Toole, the proprietor of Capitol Hill books in D.C., appears as a curmudgeon in Caroline Cunningham's wonderful profile of him and his overflowing store.
You also have a list of words that no one is allowed to speak in your store.
I hear “Perfect,” I hear “Like, like, like, like,” and I hear “Awesome” every 32 seconds and it was causing me to have brain damage. So I try to ask people when they’re here to use one of the 30,000 words in the thesaurus other than, “Perfect! Awesome! Oh my God!” When you’re sitting here for 20 years and hear that limited amount of vocabulary that people seem to enjoy using, it really [causes] destruction of gray matter.
The list of books that you won’t resell—why those?
I won’t let romance novels pass the door sill.
Why is that?
Because they suck as literature. You like those bodice-rippers? The other thing that’s pretty lousy is business. I take business books, business leadership and management crapola—I take them, but I stuff them in the business closet, out of the way. Only because people ask for them, and usually they’re all obsolete the night that they’re printed. I don’t let computer books in here because they are obsolete the day they’re printed.
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Josh Spencer is the owner of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. I haven't been there yet, but after seeing this video I plan to visit asap.
This video profile was directed and edited by Chad Howitt and produced by Matt Olson.
This short documentary focuses on the life of Josh Spencer, owner and operator of “The Last Bookstore”, located in Downtown Los Angeles. Against the closure of massive bookstore chains and the rise of eReaders, Josh has been able to create a local resurgence of the printed word. We explore his life as a father, husband, small business owner, and paraplegic, as well as the store’s magnetic attraction of the community.
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XL-Muse designed this new bookstore in Hangzhou's Star Avenue commercial center, using mirrors and clever perspective to make its many rooms seem infinite and mind-meltingly weird. Read the rest
Talk Story bookstore is in the sleepy little town of Hanapepe, Kaua'i in Hawaii. Carla and I visited it last week and loved everything about it, including its owners, Cynthia and Ed Justus, who were really friendly and helpful. Cynthia tracked down every magic trick book in the store for me!
The bookstore is in a former food and clothes store built in the 1930s called the Yoshiura Market. It's been converted to a clean, bright, and well-organized store with over 100,000 used and new books.
To see another unusual bookstore, read my post about Reader's Oasis in Quartzsite, Arizona. Read the rest
Trendy idea: America's bookstores—Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc—failed not because of Amazon, but from adopting a doomed big-box retail model that cannot be escaped. The evidence: UK bookstore chains are thriving, having located themselves in smaller units surrounded by foot traffic. And it turns out that wee used bookstores are doing great in the U.S, too.
Drew Nelles writes that The Used Bookstore Will Be the Last One Standing, focusing on Topos, a bookcafé in Queens.
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Other shops have shuttered, or fled Manhattan in search of cheaper rents. But this has not necessarily been the case for used bookstores, many of which are thriving. “Strangely enough, it’s the big chain bookstores that are more of an anachronism,” Björkenheim said. “Even Strand is having to do a lot more of what Barnes & Noble was desperately doing for the last ten years. I don’t even know what they’re selling now—more tchotchkes and t-shirts and tote bags. Which is something a used bookstore doesn’t necessarily have to resort to.” The whole industry was probably heading in this direction, he added: “smaller used bookstores, rather than enormous megastores.”
This morning I posted about two claustrophobic bookstores, one in Helsinki and one in Paris. Brian Heater (our Comics Rack columnist and the director of media at Engadget) sent me a photo of what might be the most claustrophobic bookstore of all: GF Wilkinson Books in San Francisco. It's claustrophobic not because of book clutter; it's simply because store is so small that if you stood inside it and the doors were to close, you'd be squeezed.
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It's essentially a wall of displays converted into a bookstore. I had a nice conversation with the titular Mr. Wilkinson, who has been in the book selling business for a number of years. This is just the latest incarnation. Perhaps some model for the future as Amazon and e-books continue to take a bite out of the bookstore market? Says he was inspired by the book tables set up around Manhattan (a number of whom, including one Aaron Cometbus, formed a wonderfully curated bookstore in Brooklyn called Book Thug Nation). I bought a terrific little pamphlet from 1949 called Toros Without Tears: A Simple Explanation of a Bullfight.
The SF Gate did a nice piece on Wilkinson last January.
Jenny Hart (my friend who makes those cute iron-on embroidery patterns and kits) saw my post of the claustrophobic bookstore in Helsinki and it reminded her of a charming claustrophobic bookstore in Paris. She wrote about it on Dinosaurs and Robots.
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Un Regard Moderne is considered affectionately by many to be the greatest bookstore on earth. Tucked away on a tiny street in Paris, the space is so crammed with obscure books on art, photography, comics and true crime that only two people can sorta fit in there for browsing. The owner, Jacques Noël, stands quietly on a stack of books in the corner (sometimes only his forehead and a plume of smoke can be seen), graciously willing and able to locate any book from a mind-boggling array of stacks that seem to close in more and more each time I return. I once asked him if he had any books by Polish artist and author Bruno Shulz. He thought a moment and said no, he didn't. But the next time I stopped in several weeks later, without even inquiring, he silently walked over to me and placed two copies in my hands he'd ordered. Ah, Paris! Buenaventura Press has some good photos on Flickr giving you a feel for it.
My friend Randy is on a business trip in Helsinki. The last time he was there he told me about a tiny bookstore that was stacked floor to ceiling with books. I asked him to snap some photos the next time he went. Here they are.
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I walked to the crazy bookstore I told you about. The sign reads ANTIKVARIAATTI, which means Antique Store. But it’s clearly overloaded with books only. The whole store is maybe 200 sq ft, and the books are stacked more than 10 feet high. In many areas at least 4-5 layers deep. The space for walking is barely 2 ft wide.
Red Emma's, Baltimore's astoundingly awesome collectively run radical bookstore/cafe, is having an Indiegogo fundraiser that's gone into its final stretch.
Here's the backstory behind the iconic "Keep Calm and Carry On" posters. Though 2.5 million were printed, they were never officially issued as they were reserved for crisis or invasion. 50 years later, Barter Books of Northumberland discovered a copy of the poster in a box of books from auction, and framed and hung it. They started selling copies a year later, and the rest is history.
The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On
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