News / USA

US Bookstore Survives Changes in Publishing Industry

Benjamin Bass, founder, the Strand Book Store
Benjamin Bass, founder, the Strand Book Store
Behnam Nateghi

Books and bookstores, have been having a hard time in the United States in the last few years.  Not long ago, large discount booksellers drove many small, independent book stores out of business.  Now,  those superstores are taking a hit from on-line and digital book sellers. Borders --  the country’s number two book chain -- recently declared bankruptcy and Amazon says it is now selling more e-books than printed ones. But in New York City, there’s a family-owned, independent book store that is still going strong.

Family-owned business

The Strand Book store, in New York's East Village, is surrounded by huge buildings belonging to New York University. It is more than 84 years old and is among the oldest cultural institutions in New York. It's affectionately known for the row of tables outside, filled with one-dollar books.

Nancy Bass Wyden, Strand's manager, is the granddaughter of the store’s founder, Benjamin Bass.  

Nancy and her father, Fred Bass, say the store owes at least part of its success to its location in New York City.  

“We are very fortunate to be in New York City.  It's the cultural center of the world. We have good access to these great libraries in used form," she notes.  "We have authors coming in here all the time. We just have this kind of access that a big chain store can't have in Des Moines, Iowa.”


Nancy is married to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. She began working at the store as a student.  Her dad Fred, who is now 86, has worked here since he was 13.

Staying relevant

Although the Borders book chain has declared bankruptcy and announced plans to close its remaining stores, Fred Bass says there’s a reason Strand is still in business.

"We've got the books. We've got the books at the right price. We keep getting fresh books in. Our turnover is enormous. We buy private collections. We get material that no other bookstore carries. We've got a  building here with 5 floors of books. 10,500 square feet [975 square meters] jammed with books. And there's a constant stream of books coming in,” he says.

Neil Winokur is the Strand’s book buyer.

"All day long, people… there’s a line usually all day long, people waiting to sell us books,  and you go through the books and you make them an offer," he stated. 

In addition to used books, the Strand has a rare book division that is the envy of major libraries.

"If you want a copy of "Huckleberry Finn," we could have 15 to 20 different kinds of varieties, including a signed Mark Twain," Wyden explained.

“Most of them are really serious collectors coming up here.  We carry a lot of collectables and the price range here runs from about $15  to $45,000 --  for a copy of "Ulysses,"  illustrated by Matisse and signed by Matisse, but also signed by James Joyce,” Bass added.

Unique customer service

The Strand also helps people build their own book collections.  Miguel Soto is the Strand’s personal library advisor.

“You tell us what subjects you like, what artists you like.  Do you want art books, do you want trade size, do you want biographies, do you want travel books? You tell us what you need and we'll go around the store," explains Soto. "[We will] check the inventory and pull it for you.”

Some booksellers have seen their sales fall with the growth in electronic books.  E-book sales have gone up ten times since 2008, according to an industry report.

"We've not gone the ebooks route at all. We have a lot of customers who really do not like ebooks," Wyden said. "The customers we get are very intllectual. It's not just the older professor-type peope coming in here," Bass adds. "It's younger people coming in here asking for Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Reading Aristotle and the good literary works and things like that."

Despite the brutal market for booksellers, book sales have been rising.  An industry survey shows that in 2010, almost $28 billion worth of books were sold in the U.S. -- a 5.6 percent increase in two years.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More